Issue 25 - 08/16/20


  • A Brief Memoir of How Life Has Been Lately
  • Announcement: I Have Decided to Become One With the Sea
  • Matt Reviews: Young Matt (An Archaeological Study of Items Unearthed in My Childhood Bedroom)

  • So You Moved to Montana in the Middle of a Pandemic for Reasons That Are Very Good?
  • QUIZ: Which Witch Will You Become When We All Inevitably Run Off Into the Woods to Escape Society?
  • How to Fake an Interest In Soccer
  • I'm So Tired
  • Office Chart

A Brief Memoir of How Life Has Been Lately

Conventicle-level contributor Andrew Piotrowski

As an essential employee, I can't exactly give a memoir of how life in quarantine has been going. I haven't been quarantined; I'm working about as much if not a little more than I was before quarantine. The only people I see outside of work are my roommate and my boyfriend, but, again, that's roughly equivalent to how my life was in the before times.

So now, I sit at the computer at 1:44 AM as Gilmore Girls plays silently on my other monitor because my audio space is occupied by a remix of a song from the Sonic Adventure 2 soundtrack.

Life is, at the same time, both inexplicably different and explicably unchanged.

Isn't that pretentious?

A month ago, I found out that a coworker I briefly kinda-dated last summer was trying to start a rumor that I'm cheating on my boyfriend, so I reported him to my managers. At first they were a shithead about the whole thing but now it seems like they're trying to be friendly and sweep the incident under the rug instead of apologizing.

This rubs me the wrong way but has also forced me to reconsider: why do I need the apology? Do I need to feel the rush of victory as someone eats crow in front of me? I don't wanna be THAT guy. But this person has a long history of trying to ignore problems, and I am, quite frankly, as incapable of ignoring problems as I am avoiding appositive phrases. Maybe I need some sort of confirmation that they understand they did something wrong.

The song is now "I2I" by Tevin Campbell AKA Powerline from A Goofy Movie, if you're keeping track.

I've recently become concerned that people don't appreciate the way I show affection. Since I've become more comfortable with who I am as a person, my affection has grown more physical, because I recognize that I enjoy physical affection. But is it fair for me to impose that enjoyment on others who may not cotton to that?

I had a bout of insecurity related to a friend of mine; I had a sudden doubt that he actually liked me because he wasn't very talkative or affectionate with me. Nothing had actually changed, however. HIs mannerisms stayed consistent, and yet my confidence in our friendship plunged like a plunger. Into a toilet. A friendship toilet? Again, it doesn't seem fair to hold his friendliness to my standards of expressing friendliness. I confided in a mutual friend about this and she wondered at his love language and I made fun of her.

"Red Side of the Moon" by Trixie Mattel is on. A 1-2 punch of a heartwarming ballad and heart-wrenching lament.

I miss wearing lipstick. As a guy who sometimes wears lipstick, it's fun wearing bright colors or daring metallics that girls couldn't really get away with on a casual day. But since I'm a guy wearing lipstick, ANY color is daring so it's just as acceptable for me to wear a soft pink as it is to wear a dark, glittery blue. Which is to say, completely acceptable or utterly unacceptable depending on whom you ask.

I hesitate to include that Spotify Shuffle has decided that it's now time for "When You Were Young" by the Killers because it's not as much of a niche, interesting song. But this memoir should be honest, so there you have it.

In my pseudo-quarantined boredom I decided it would be a good idea to reread every book I own by Mr. Rick Riordan, famous author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series as well as a few other satellite serials. Riordan is an honorable man, I think, which is also a weird compliment. He does use his platform post-Percy to uplift minority YA fantasy authors, so that's cool.

My monitor is a bit dirty, so I just had to double check that my punctuation was correct and it was just a smudge of something unidentifiable on the screen. Yowza.

Anyway, I think YA fantasy deserves more respect. I think when people write adult fantasy novels, they trade away a lot of the nuance and personality of the writing in favor of intrigue and scandal and poorly described blowjobs. YA lit tends to have less throbbing members and more relatable characters.

"Narcissist" by No Rome feat. The 1975. A nebulous jam. Moving on.

I considered writing a paper for the Newsletter entitled "All old books are bad and you're wrong if you disagree" but the title is mainly just shock factor. The argument itself is fairly cogent; older works of literature weren't written for a modern audience, therefore they're inherently harder to relate to and their themes can probably be found in a more contemporary work.

Follow for next week's "All old music is bad; take those oldie stations off of your XM favorites."

Taylor Swift's "You're Not Sorry." This one didn't shuffle, I chose it.

Maybe kindness instead of an apology isn't something I should turn my nose up at. Do the words "I'm sorry" hold such a sway over my opinion of a relationship that I can't move forward without them? After the incident, I wasn't even willing to be near the perpetrator. Time has mellowed the wound a little bit but I get a little angry again every time they act like nothing happened. Perhaps that's why I want the explicit apology. If they think kindness erases what they did, then I've allowed them to think that.

Is it pride? Because that thought makes it seem a lot like pride. But it's also trust. If they want to resume any sort of friendship, I have to trust that they won't do something like this again. But if they pretend they didn't do anything, and something similarly shitty happens between us, they can easily shrug it off again while I'm stuck in "Fool Me Twice" City.

I let shuffle take control again and its first edict is "No One is Alone" from Into the Woods.

I'm alone as I'm writing this. Objectively. I'm sitting in an oversized armchair in front of a folding table that I use as a cluttered desk. However, the baker's wife tells me that no one is alone, and I am reminded that I'm texting a dear friend and my heart is a little warmer and my head feels a little better. Then I look up to the TV screen and see a TV show that has comforted me many times over the years and my head and heart get a little closer to each other, keeping each other company.

I think this is the original Broadway cast recording; the quality isn't great.

When I was younger I read a book that I remember almost nothing about except for the fact that it referenced some poem about magpies or ravens and counting them and the omens resulting from certain numbers of them. Wait right there, I'm going to Google it.

Okay, so it's magpies usually. Typically begins "One for sorrow, two for mirth." The rhyme doesn't usually go more than 7 magpies though. At most 12. What omen should I interpret if I see a flock of magpies?

A quick Google search recommends either a "mischief" or a "conventicle" of magpies, among other words that seem similarly pulled out of an ass. Nonetheless.

In a flock of magpies, are you supposed to just pick your favorites and then base your fortune-telling on those? Or is it perhaps, a scalar issue: "One hundred for sorrow, two hundred for mirth" or some such math? That assumes a lot about my ability to quickly quantify magpies. Rest assured, that ability will be measured and found wanting by quite a few magpies.

"I Saw God Today" by George Strait. A surprising choice depending on how much you know about me. I was kinda raised by my mother and George Strait, and God had very little to do with it.

My sleepytime tea is cold.

Announcement: I Have Decided to Become One With the Sea

Barnacle-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer

Dearest family, friends, colleagues, and arch nemeses,

When I'm really overwhelmed by the world and all its seemingly insurmountable obstacles, I hide in the darkest, quietest place I can find and imagine I'm floating in the middle of the deep blue, silent ocean, with miles of briny water above and below me. I have the opposite of thalassophobia, basically. To be submerged in pelagic depths is the truest peace I can envision.

The obstacles of the world seem rather more obstacle-y, lately, and I've come to the conclusion that it's time I make my dream a reality. I am writing to inform you it is time that I leave the world of the walking and join my begilled brothers and sisters in the deep blue.

My plan is as follows: I will walk directly into the ocean and live there. That's it. I may join a pack of dolphins if they're chill. Ideally I will eventually team up with a blue whale, the largest of all of earth's creatures, ever, and therefore the best, and swim at a leisurely four miles per hour at her side. She will sing her sorrowful song and I will feel it move through me, vibrating every cell in my body, shaking out all the debris from my soul into the murky depths where it will sink to the sandy bottom and decompose, fading from existence in both the physical realm and my memory. You just can't get anything like that on land, folks!

Will I miss all of you? No. But I will miss most of you, probably. Matt, I know you will commandeer a mighty vessel, fit for the raging waves, and hunt me down with a custom human-harpoon. It's gonna be the hottest foreplay. And yeah, I know that's basically the plot of the greatest American erotic novel of all time: Moby Dick. But guess what? I haven't read it so this technically isn't plagiarism. Come at me, Herman.

So this is farewell. Take care of yourselves. Follow your dreams. Accept your body. Sing a secret to the moon. Punch a cop. And when you miss me, stand on the shore at sunset and train your gaze on the horizon. If it's meant to be, and if you deserve it, you'll catch a glimpse of my majestic and naked form soaring out of the water.

Matt Reviews: Young Matt (An Archaeological Study of Items Unearthed in My Childhood Bedroom)

Raptor-level contributor Old Matt Spradling

I've been visiting my family and staying in a room full of many of my childhood belongings, a crude replica of the room I actually grew up in created when my parents decided to live it up and buy a bigger house after I left for college. Staying in it is equal parts comforting and unsettling, like a taxidermy of your first dog, or when friends and colleagues like to play devil's advocate in political discussions just a little bit too frequently.

As you grow up, you'll sometimes find yourself wondering melancholy things like "I wonder if my young self would be happy with who I've become," or "do I even remember who I used to be," or "I've literally forgotten what it's like to feel energetic lol." I began to wonder what I could learn about past-Matt, the not-quite-forgotten, puckish creature who haunts my family home videos, from the things he collected. I will attempt to be as objective as possible, not to divorce myself from my past self, but because he was so weird I don't really know how to process this otherwise. For instance:

The main piece of furniture in this room besides the bed is a large, flat, antique desk with drawers that require big fancy antique keys to open. In one of these spooky slots resides:


Little green swiss army knife with "Bell Helicopter" printed on it: this was the first knife, found under the waiting bench outside Los Molcajetes in Fort Worth and which for some reason began this whole collection. One of the little things you can pull out of the side of it is a toothpick. I hope he never used it.

Stainless steel Zippo Kiewit foldout knife: small but extremely sharp. Young Matt's second knife, he won it at a silent auction fundraiser for Cub Scouts in like 1st grade. They all looked around like, are we allowed to give this to a kid? And then they did it. Ironic "Awarded For Safety Achievement" printed on the handle.

KA-BAR: yep, an authentic replica of a classic Marine Corps KABAR, which for the unfamiliar is so big the blade could be used to shovel dirt and the handle used as a hammer or some hardcore WWII stuff like that. It was purchased at Bass Pro Shop for $20. It is the sharpest single item I've ever seen with my own eyes.

The creepy redneck one: A basic-ass steel folding knife which comes in a fancy wooden box with what looks like a bald eagle belt buckle embossed on top, and which on the inside has a cheap vinyl graphic of yet another bald eagle, crossed muskets, and "PROTECT our American Tradition" using three fonts for four words. Ironic Native American iconography on the handle. Young Matt wasn't very world-wise and assumed you were supposed to be an enthusiastic america-lovin' republican because he grew up watching mostly NASCAR and just wanted to fit in. I even had a mild hatred for the un-hateable M&M car because, to quote my eight-year old self, "that's the car that killed Dale Earnhardt," in a sort of gamified the-jews-killed-jesus slur. You know, sitting here and coincidentally gazing upon all the NASCAR hot wheels cars I collected and loved as a kid after my three-year old niece burst into the office to dump the toy bucket out in a terrifying show of strength, it occurs to me that there's a pretty good lesson in there somewhere, like a metaphor about religion and dogmatism and how we in our childlike innocence choose the car whose colors and number just happens to arbitrarily strike our fancy and then over time develop a fierce loyalty to it which causes us to demonize the Other. Anyway Young Matt also frequented this military surplus store called Cheaper Than Dirt that had cool airsoft guns and stuff, where he acquired several knick-knacks but none as questionable as this. Oh except the sword, but that's not technically a part of the knife drawer. (Because it's too big.) (But that's a metaphor for something else.) (Get it?) (Because men who cling to traditionalism and fetishize cultural iconography have a consistent propensity for wielding physical tools such as weapons as extrapolative phallic symbolism, a clear means by which they may affect the world when they otherwise feel insecure about and potentially incapable of doing so.) (haha) (I just realized that Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart were huge rivals in the 2000's and their respective sponsors were Lowe's and Home Depot)

There are literally 13 more knives of various sizes and quality but this can't be the whole issue. I'm not sure what can be gleaned about Young Matt from the existence of his Knife Drawer, except that it was an essential, though passive, piece of his persona: he never did anything overtly menacing, but you inexplicably knew he had a dark drawer of mall ninja shit squirreled away. I didn't even get to the razor-sharp metal throwing card set or the literal nunchucks my school friend Jared got me for my birthday one year even though I'm pretty sure they're illegal. I got him a grappling hook that year (from Cheaper Than Dirt) and I'm pretty sure he's used it.

At least now we can move on to less violent categories.

Next time on "Matt Reviews: Young Matt"...


Editor's note: after reviewing the footage, I have determined that the #36 M&M car was not at fault for Earnhardt's fatality, it merely had the last contact and altered the angle. It was actually the #40 car which instigated the wreck, but I didn't like that car anyway, and it was still a freak accident, and I think the misinterpretation only serves to reinforce the point here, vague as it is.

So You Moved to Montana in the Middle of a Pandemic for Reasons That Are Very Good?

Jeff Gordon-level contributor Alex Speed

In the summer of 2016 I injured myself lifting weights like a fucking idiot. My girlfriend at the time was in Europe and all my friends were gone so I decided to get super jacked by myself because I was nineteen and technically invincible. I got a gym membership at the worst gym in Austin, that one right off of Guad that always has a blue corvette with flames parked outside, and got to work. Like two weeks in I was doing deadlifts without a brace to prove something to - god? I guess? when I felt and heard my spine add a few degrees of very fun curvature to what was previously a perfect straight line. I did the awkward scared gym douche crab walk out of the gym and scurried immediately to my bed.

So now my girlfriend was off exploring Europe, my friends were spread across the country, my roommates were all gone, and I was stuck in bed on top of an ice pack rewatching Bo Burnham specials on Netflix and trying not to OD on ibuprofen. After a few days of this I couldn't take it anymore so I took as many ibuprofens as I could, put a bunch of ice packs in my car, sent a weird text to my girlfriend, and set off to drive from Austin to Montana despite an overbearing inability to walk.

I think I got about two hours in before I had to pull over because I was crying so hard from pain, my dumb stupid tears becoming seriously literal roadblocks to my sense of adventure. Around this time I got a call from said girlfriend who explained just exactly how stupid this idea was and convinced me to turn around and return to bed. I made it back to Austin extremely defeated but secretly grateful to be in bed and not on a 24-hour road trip to a place I knew nothing about. Since then Montana has been this weird, unobtainable place to me. Some sort of paradise where my sense of adventure meets satisfaction nestled between mountains split by rivers of beer. I even bought a shirt that has some sick-ass wolves on it because it says Montana on the left arm in weird white writing.

Well now I'm a grown-ass man with a job I work remotely because of a horrible disease and who is single and who can do what he wants so I just packed up all my stuff and my dog and moved the hell up here. 

Upon arriving I felt like the dog who finally catches the mail truck. Spending so long knowing it's out there and that it will be great and that it is what you yearn for in a perfect world, you take the opportunity of the world eating itself to fulfill your own self-prescribed prophecy. The reality however is that it is both the greatest place on Earth and still a flawed place subject to the same frustrations and banalities of life as anywhere else. I have been here for about a month and I think what is most striking isn't the insane mountains or rivers, but the ever-present reminder that no landscape is beautiful enough to subvert the constant looming reality of monotony. I know that sounds just like wicked sad, but in a way I think it is also beautiful. I think it levels the playing field as far as geographical significance goes.

I have once again learned a pretty simple lesson in the most difficult way possible.

Hey really quick, do you guys remember when I would write about funny stuff like reviewing the different versions of "Life is a Highway" and now I just write weird sad journal entries? Pretty cool.

I am turning 24 on Sunday by myself in the middle of the mountains and in a place where I feel the most like an awake and participating human being. The beauty of this situation is that a place as unique and weird and different as Montana forces you to confront the more plain and boring aspects of your own personal I-am-here life. Instead of coming out here and learning all these grandiose things about myself and unlocking a higher level of being, I am instead realizing the importance of feeding my dog at the same time every day and trying to get seven hours of sleep.

QUIZ: Which Witch Will You Become When We All Inevitably Run Off Into the Woods to Escape Society?

GM-level contributor Marina Martinez

(Anybody can be a witch, Chad, chill out.)

1. What's your favorite drink?

a. A simple cup of herbal tea

b. Hot chocolate with cinnamon

c. Water (but with ice, it just hits different)

d. The hot blood of my enemies

e. Does Gogurt count as a drink or is that a liquidy food?

2. Which of these aesthetics speaks to you?

a. Sunlight streaming through the trees lighting a forest path at dawn, songbirds singing merrily in the yard as they hunt for worms after a light rain, wildflowers pressed between the pages of a cookbook

b. The smell of freshly baked bread, a warm hug, the giddy feeling of making a loved one laugh

c. Heat waves on pavement, a sticky table outside a crowded coffee shop, wearing black in during the middle of summer because you're not a wimp

d. The smell of gunpowder and gasoline, a cane that has a blade hidden in it, secret passages in an old castle, a cask of a vintage wine down in my basement come on just follow me it's right down here!

e. Just some sort of Ghibli movie - the color palette, the big goopy water physics, the magical realism

3. Why are you fleeing society, anyway? 

a. We're destroying the planet! Well, we aren't, corporations and billionaires are responsible for the majority of the pollution and they blame it on us, but I still feel a little guilty! I could probably sort my recycling better!

b. I'm so tired of all the injustice. There are so many marginalized communities that nobody seems to care about no matter how many GoFundMe pages I share. I feel like I'm screaming into a void, especially with family. I don't know how to make people care about other people.

c. Honestly I'm just so busy worrying all the time - side effect of me being a perfectionist with acute anxiety - and I just need a break? I have a very public job and my boss must think I like working with people, but no! It'd be nice to maybe not be sweaty for...ten minutes?

d. Do you know how filled with rage I am? I log onto Twitter for five minutes and my vision is red. If I have to stay here and pay rent to my thief landlord for one more month I cannot be held responsible for my actions. Even memes can't save me now.

e. I'm not really sure, actually. It's just...have you noticed that more and more people are joining covens recently? I asked around - it's not just my friend group. Witchcraft is just taking over people's interests overnight like K-pop or Animal Crossing or TikTok. I have serious FOMO rn.

4. What's your favorite witchy film from the 90s?

a. Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost - I think about this song at least once a month.

b. Halloweentown - it's very cheesy and family friendly but also strangely charming. The sequels got weird, but the original is still a classic!

c. Hocus Pocus - I too would probably fuck up and summon a great evil, I get it. Plus...talking cat!

d. Practical Magic - a coven of powerful women fighting back against abusers and also margaritas are involved, need I say more?

e. Sabrina the Teenage Witch - I know it's not a movie but Melissa Joan Hart and that cat puppet were my everything.

5. Which of these is your dream home (in the woods)?

a. A treehouse but like a whole village in the trees

b. A small but cozy cottage with a big kitchen and a warm hearth

c. Maybe like a renovated greenhouse, or some place with a jacuzzi or spa.

d. A bunker with at least three secure exits and a wine cellar and/or wet bar

e. A tent, but one of those 'glamping' tents

6. How do you sort your books?

a. By subject, like you're supposed to?

b. They're not really 'sorted' so much as 'in random stacks scattered around my house'.

c. I have all the spines facing backwards so it's like a fun treasure hunt whenever I'm looking for something specific. On second thought, it's not that fun. Why did I do this.

d. By color. Fight me.

e. Well the series are all kept together but then everything else is just sort of a free for all? I had them sorted by author name originally but then I kept buying more books and not reading them so your guess is as good as mine, pal.

7. What kind of potato are you?

a. The most excellent boiled potato

b. Garlic mashed potato

c. Loaded baked potato

d. Just a raw potato, full of potential

e. French fries or tater tots, something greasy to ease the ache in my soul (lol jk)

8. If you had to listen to only one Hozier song for the rest of time, which one would it be?

a. Work Song

b. From Eden

c. Sunlight


e. Take Me To Church

9. What D&D class would you be?

a. Druid

b. Cleric

c. Wizard

d. Barbarian

e. NPC. Also this question is bard erasure and I won't stand for it.

10. The most important question to any quiz - what's your favorite color?

a. Green, I guess.

b. Oh nooooo I like so many colors though. All of them together? Which is probably...brown.

c. uhhhhhhhHHHHHHH yellow.

d. Are you fucking kidding me. Red, like my vision rn.

e. You could've asked any question to gain further insight into my personality and you chose to ask a mundane question about color. Whoop-dee-doo, I dunno, rainbow. Please, I just want a result and this definitely isn't helping anyone.


Tally up your answers:

Mostly A: Witch of the Woods

Good news - running off into the woods may not have been your original plan, but you're the most prepared for this out of everyone, like Katniss in the first Hunger Games book. You might not remember to take all the plants you've accumulated with you, but you'll know enough about caring for them to set up and lead the sustainable farm that your coven will set up. Congratulations, you have a necessary skill and any coven would be lucky to have you! Your power will come up from Mother Earth, and the fungi you command will consume the rich and the transphobes.

Mostly B: The Good Witch

You're a particularly good finder - you finally found a way to be the permanent mom friend! Your ideas of witchcraft have been extremely romanticized, but your kind heart will strengthen your power and that of your coven. We're all extremely unprepared to live off of the grid, but you're a natural empath with a big heart and a comfy shoulder to lean on. For once, you don't mind bearing the emotional weight of an entire group - this time it was a choice and it actually doesn't feel like a burden! Your magic, although most suitable for physical healing, will be subtle but strong with emotions as well, binding your coven together.

Mostly C: The Phoenix

Your anxiety burns with the heat of a thousand stars, but don't worry, this is actually good news! Yes, you'll need a little while to gather your strength back, but the woods will be so rejuvenating that you'll practically feel like a new person. You'll gain a renewed sense of purpose, and before you know it you'll be soaring high. The motivation, enthusiasm, and energy you have from this new, free life will inspire those around you; you'll be a boon to your coven. Your magic will be a positive guiding force in those around you, and you'll be able to influence feelings and luck.

Mostly D: Witch of Sticks and Stones

Your anger is what has fueled you up until this point, but there won't be need for rage so much anymore. Instead, you'll find yourself channeling your righteous fury into the need to protect. Words have hurt you, but now you'll have the capacity to break bone if need be (but hopefully not, we're trying to be peaceful, here). Your magic will lend itself to fortifying wards, defending against harm, and protecting your coven.

Mostly E: You're not a witch at all!

Listen - it's not your fault, but nothing is stopping you from running off into the woods anyway to live your dream. You can still respect the culture and the lifestyle, that way it's not appropriation! This is your chance to be the grounding force, the control group, in this brave new world. Every group needs a token muggle, after all, and there are few things more powerful than being underestimated.

How to Fake an Interest In Soccer

Linesman-level contributor Matt Spradling

I've had a lifelong passion for Liverpool Football Club which began in 2013 at the age of 19. Inspired by Justin McElroy's video "How to Fake an Interest in Woodworking," I realized a similar guide could perhaps be useful for those of you with soccer fans in your lives. You may be thinking, "I don't think I do, though." You do. There are just so many low-key trendy 30 year olds in your life wearing Arsenal shirts that you ceased to notice long ago.

So, here are some talking points to help fake your way through conversations and parties and make the other-football lovers in your life feel appreciated. You don't even need to know the rules of the game.

1. If you don't already know, ask which team they support. This will be a necessary basis for the rest of the conversation, and the way they tell you will inform how things are going overall. If they tell you enthusiastically, their team is doing well. If they tell you somewhat sheepishly or smugly, their team is doing so well that they're worried about seeming like their bragging in case you happen to support a rival team. If they tell you with a beleaguered sigh, tread lightly.

2. Ask how the season's going. This is a pretty simple one and is fairly universal for pro sports. For serious soccer fans, seasons are almost invariably a brutal, emotionally damaging ordeal lasting for more than nine months with little to no respite along the way. At best, their team is challenging for the title. The standard of this has increased in recent years to mean that every game in the season is basically a must-win, and therefore highly stressful. At worst, their team is down at the bottom of the table fighting to stay in the league, so it's just as consistently stressful but with a lot less success along the way. If they're lost somewhere in the middle of the table, nothing matters and their lives are meaningless. No matter which dark odyssey your friend is currently embarked upon, they will appreciate getting to open up about it outside of therapy.

3. Ask "which competition are ya'll focusing on?" Unlike most other sports, most European soccer teams frequently take part in 2-4 competitions over the course of the same season. The main one is each country's league, which runs the entire year for 34-38 games, and is a pure points total with no playoffs. To complicate things, most countries also have a cup competition which is a playoff tournament format but happens slowly over the course of the season on off-weeks. England wanted to complicate things even further, so they also have an even better cup competition called the FA Cup, so most English teams are automatically in three competitions, the lesser of which almost isn't even worth the effort for bigger teams. Then the big fun one is the Champions League, which is another full-year tournament in which only the top few teams from each country compete against each other. It's basically the club world cup for teams people actually care about. 

4. Just kidding, we're not done yet. Then there's the Europa League which is the Champions League Jr. For example, in England, the top four league finishers get into the next year's Champions League, but fifth place gets into the Europa League, and sometimes teams eliminated from the Champions League will drop into the Europa League halfway through. So, it's simultaneously impressive but sort of junior-varsity. THEN there's the obscure stuff I literally only even know about because Liverpool was entered into after winning the Champions League. These are the uh... Super Cup(?) in which the winner of the Champions League and Europa League play a single game, and then the Club World Cup which I guess is kind of the Champions League but for the whole world instead of just Europe even though people only care about Europe. This is a wild amount of competitions and puts a lot of stress on some squads. In December, Liverpool were forced to play two games on the same day, one in Istanbul for the Club World Cup, and one in deepest darkest Aston Villa for the league cup. Their solution was to field a team of literal teenagers against Villa. They got spanked 5-0 but it was pretty funny and by all accounts our kids had the moral victory. Anyway, asking about competitions will provide a sizable chunk of conversation and allow your friend to give you their personal theories about squad rotation which even I find boring.

5. Avoid asking how your friend became a fan of the club they support. People like to feel as though they do what they do for good, logical reasons, but the club they first fall in with is usually less justifiable than the soda they chose from the fountain at Jimmy Johns. "I don't know, it sounded good and I liked the color I guess" is impossible to say without feeling like a disappointment.

6. Skip the bit where you say diving is the only reason you don't watch, no one gives a shit.

7. Ask "any big transfers this summer?" Chances are they support a pretty big club, which means rumors about potential new signings between seasons probably run pretty rampant. These rumors are often almost completely unfounded, but will allow your friend a chance to segue into discussing what they think their team is missing, and how, if they fill that solitary missing piece, it'll totally be their year finally. It won't. But don't suggest it won't. They need this hope.


Ultimately, we just like to be seen and validated and not bullied, and we appreciate you putting the effort in to care and learn, and there's no need for us to know that all of that effort is fake. You shouldn't necessarily take this energy into romantic relationships.


8. Oh, if they're primarily fans of the MLS, which is the American league, all bets are off. None of the rules apply. No one knows why they do what they do. No one understands the past or future of the endeavor. If you feel safe, try asking questions that get to the heart of the matter, which is "why," but don't expect any true insight and be merciful when they try to change the subject, which basically already goes for any conversation anyway. Congrats, interaction accomplished.

I'm So Tired

idk-level contributor Matt Spradling

I've put off writing for months now because I feel sort of obligated to be topical and serious and productive and helpful and informed out of a sort of responsibility to use my cute little dozens-strong platform responsibly, but the problem is I feel horribly inept and unqualified when it comes to that, so it's a fun little catch-22 that nobody else in the world has thought about even once except for myself because privilege.

It's not a coincidence that the fun run of quarantine issues a few months ago stopped when the George Floyd protests first kicked off. Not that quarantine was a peachy dream before that, but the mood obviously turned. I was angry at the surprisingly large amount of friends who couldn't simply express support for the protests (which do not need me to justify them here) without making the bulk of their message about condemning looting. I feel that is self-centered, propagates a harmful and misleading equivalency, and is at the very least unhelpful. I wrote a lot about ideological perfectionism (which is a fancy-sounding term I made up) and the natural (and not necessarily harmful) urge we have to want make everything perfect, just make all the puzzle pieces in the world fit together right all at the same time, which I have felt in the past in regards to certain other issues. Who wants there to be problems? If we're fixing a big one, why not do the little ones adjacent to it too? Oh but by the way, hem this part of the big issue in because it sort of occupies the same space as this much smaller issue, you're really blowing the big one out of proportion more than we should really need to when you really think about it. Meanwhile people's lives, and people's children's safety, or literal equality in the workplace, have been on the line their entire lives struggling against the current for the big issue, while the little issue isn't urgent at all, but it's the only thing more privileged people have to potentially worry about, so they make an equivalency out of them that is both false and inevitably detracts from the most important things going on.

Does that make any sense? See how I clearly struggle at conveying this? I'm not even going to try to edit that paragraph. 

I guess the point is, when many millions of people tell you there's an enormous problem they are putting everything on hold for and potentially their safety on the line for, it seems to me 1. You should believe them, and 2. It's incredibly douchey and harmful to be an armchair expert and nit-pick it. It's a luxury that is only possible when you have no skin in the game. Are there parts of every movement that can be nit-picked and criticized? Sure. But if something is important enough, at some point you just have to do it, even if it's imperfect, and it will always be imperfect. This isn't the example I was thinking of, but responding to Black Lives Matter with All Lives Matter is an obvious case of this. Imagine being unable to unreservedly agree with an utterly simple assertion of life that is massively important due to context which should be obvious, because it doesn't come wrapped up in a pretty little pedantic package that encompasses all puzzle pieces, ailing or not. This goes for voting third party this election too. It's a luxury that only feels acceptable when you have no skin in the game.


As much as I love writing, it's not currently the best way to help my community, so it just hasn't been a focus. Not that I've been such a Big Good Hero that I don't have time for anything else; quite the opposite for the most part. But I've been wanting to get back to it a bit and other people have expressed interest, so here we are. I wrote and organized all the rest of this issue half-distracted and hoping the momentum of it would make this article sort of manifest itself out of the ether because it felt necessary to include something like this, but I'm clearly flailing with it and I don't like that. I've reached a point where I just feel tired, and that is not helpful when trying to summarize an incredibly weighty handful of months.

I am so tired.

And I don't even have to do anything. I've had a great quarantine. I love alone time or time with only Sam, I'm in the best overall shape of my life, I'm well-rested, face no major short term financial hardships, and am not even taking care of a child or anything. It's more or less the most privileged and peaceful life someone can lead in my tax bracket. But I spend the bulk of my emotional energy being (I think justifiably) worried about everything, and consuming nearly constant news, and trying to be involved online to the point where I've had to set usage boundaries on certain platforms, and just generally trying to take everything in and be appreciative of the enormous hardship so many different people are experiencing right now - well, doing that for months to the point of bursting and then hearing from people who I generally respect but discover it turns out they don't really care about any of what you do, just straight up don't give a shit, at least as conveyed through their actions and focus, is shockingly deflating. Just sucks my soul out. The sensation is like you've been pushing on a boulder as hard as you can because you know it needs to move forward a foot, and then it shifts backwards an inch, and anything you are is just completely negated by the sheer apathy of so many people. Can put you on your ass and make you give up on everything for a day or two. So that's where I'm at, which is bad timing vis a vis the whole fun and energizing newsletter thing.

What I guess I can say is that to my friends who do care and are showing up, generally more than me, I see and appreciate you very much. You're doing great.

This issue has essentially turned out to be a big group hug in which we express the ways we're all not doing so particularly hot due to the writing of the contributors with no direction from me. I hope it's been somewhat helpful to read if you're feeling the same.

Here are some good things for your consideration:

Podcast: Brené Brown with Ibram X. Kendi on How to Be an Antiracist

Act for change in Austin

Austin mutual aid facebook group

Fort Worth mutual aid (disclaimer, not a part of this one)

Petition for Austin Black Live Music Fund

Beat the Heat GoFundMe

2020 Texas Criminal Case Watch and Action Steps via Black Lives Matter Austin

Donate funds

Sign petitions, make calls, send emails

Demand justice for Breonna Taylor

Demand justice for Elijah McClain

Register to Vote - Texas Voter Registration Deadline is Monday, October 5th

Complete the Census

And extra thanks to Sam for helping with most of the links.

Office Chart

Cynthia Erivo - "I'm Here" from The Color Purple

I recently looked a bit more into the term "11-o-clock number," a term in musical theatre referring to a song performed near the end of a performance (around 11-o-clock when theatrical performances started at 8 PM). These numbers, typically serving as the penultimate expression of the main character's emotion, are almost always powerhouse performances and "I'm Here" is no exception, with Erivo serving the audience a piece of her soul on a platter in this heartfelt declaration of determination and beauty in the face of adversity.  -Andrew

Joni Mitchell - Urge for Going

Listening to Joni Mitchell music feels like a warm hug from my childhood nostalgia. Was it just my mom or did a lot of 90's moms play her albums on repeat? This song in particular, after 5 months isolated in my apartment, hits extremely different. Like yeah, Joni, I do feel the urge for going. You get it.  -Marina

Phoebe Bridgers - Motion Sickness

Honestly someone might have already reviewed this song on Newsletter, but I haven't so here we are. I used to be a Ryan Adams fan until it turned out he's a piece of human garbage so this PERFECTLY written song is all the more incredible for being based on how shitty he is. I know if something like that happened to me I would just write sad acoustic folk songs about it - speaking of which be on the lookout for my next album. Anyway I consider this song to be in the top ten songs of the last decade and anyone who accuses me of hyperbole is stupid and wrong.  -Alex

Taylor Swift - seven

When Taylor said, please picture me in the weeds / before I learned civility / I used to scream ferociously / anytime I wanted, I felt that.  -Sam

Elliott Smith - Everything Reminds Me Of Her

Elliott Smith is maybe the best acoustic guitar player/writer I've ever listened to? So many of his songs sound like they're one guitar playing rhythm and second guitar playing melody, but it's just him doing it all at the same time live. I don't know a ton about guitar so I can't describe it more technically than that. I can barely learn the songs with clear step by step instructions, so I can't fathom how he wrote them. Also see "Waltz #2 (XO)" and "Angeles." (On the studio recording of this song there is an electric guitar highlighting the melody, but) if you have a guitar, spend half an hour working through this, it's immensely satisfying. Put a capo on the third if you don't want to tune down.  -Matt

Sonic Generations Official Soundtrack - Escape From The City - Cash Cash RMX

This song, originally featured on the soundtrack for Sonic Adventure 2: Battle and remixed for Sonic Generations, stands out as an energetic opening number for a new game in a beloved franchise. The frantic energy of the song is also the only thing I can think of when I'm leading a game of D&D and my team engages in some TRULY chaotic dumbassery.  -Andrew

Miike Snow - Genghis Khan

I recently saw a fan vid of dr doofenshmirtz and perry the platypus on tumblr with this music. I'm sorry for bringing that image into your life, but it was a near shot-by-shot remake of the original music video, which is COOL AS HECK, so yeah I've been listening to this a lot lately. It's just catchy as hell and also is perfect for the enemies-to-lovers trope, of which I am a big fan.  -Marina

Coldplay - Everything's Not Lost

I have this thing where I don't believe that anyone doesn't actually like Coldplay. I think people who say they don't like Coldplay either haven't listened to them or just want to seem edgy and cool for not liking one of the most popular bands of all time. This song is not like a world-changingly good song or anything, but it has a secret track hidden at the end that sounds like a clear articulation of a beautiful idea about love. I dunno man, Coldplay is good and so is this song shut up.  -Alex

Radiohead - Jigsaw Falling Into Place

I've been listening to a lot of Radiohead lately because I eventually want to write a newsletter article ranking all their albums and also because they are Good. I'm especially fond of In Rainbows as every song on the album is a certified bop. This song in particular makes me Thom-flail.  -Sam

Phoebe Bridgers - I Know The End

Last week Alex asked me how Phoebe Bridgers is so good and I said I think it's because she's 30% Elliott Smith, 20% Bright Eyes, and 50% good at being relatable to Sad Girls (read: us). I think this track flaunts the most Bright Eyes influence, a sweeping finale evocative of Cassadaga's spooky western W.B. Yeats vibe. Anyway I listened to this album three times in a row last night while mixing scotch and raspberry hard seltzers and convincing Andrew to write something as he proceeded to make me watch him edit fonts and colors on the google doc for an hour.  -Matt

Come back next week for:

Can Ghosts Move Up and Down or Am I Safe Upstairs From All the Ones That Died on Ground Level?

Casper Is the Product of Ghosts Fucking, Not a Dead Child

What The Hell Do You Do With Increased Web Traffic?

I Take My Shirt Off and Try Not to Cry

We Stared Too Long at a Red Pill Site Trying to Think of a Good Parody Bit

2 Signs To Identify A Liberal Women In Disguise


Banner: Punisher, Phoebe Bridgers

Dolphin: No I think that's actually Sam now