Issue 36 - 10/30/20

Mensam de contentis

  • The First Texas Country Music Star
  • Night of the Undead Siri: Part III
  • Which Haunted Hottie is your Dreamy Devil's Night Date?
  • Bear Attacks Are Testing Friendships Everywhere (Or Maybe Just Mine)
  • Eclipse (But Better)
  • The Effects of My Blood Type
  • SAD
  • From the Vaults: A Fairytale Musical
  • Chess Openings and What They Say About the Size of Your Johnson
  • Office Chart

The First Texas Country Music Star

Chief Solitude Correspondent Alex Speed

I've gotten into the habit of listening to a handful of albums multiple times a day. This past week I have listened the eponymous Willis Alan Ramsey album about four times a day. It was one of the first real Texas songwriter albums that broke through to the mainstream. Willis Alan Ramsey spent six months locked in a studio with an engineer and whoever decided to show up to the studio to make this debut album. He had the unique luxury of unlimited money and unmatched raw talent that oftentimes becomes an insurmountable hurdle in a creative setting, example: every article I have ever written.

However, this setting did not stop him from creating a groundbreaking album. To a modern ear this album doesn't really seem like anything special - almost like a character sing-talking about his encounters with various vermin out on the trail or dishing out long lost claims of love for the women he met as a high schooler in the richest neighborhood in Dallas. He weaves together stories that take you somewhere far away, just in time for you to realize that he's actually talking about something very close to you - something that you feel like is a part of your story, even though your story takes place almost fifty years after his album was released. In short, I think this album is an almost perfect example of songwriting for the sake of storytelling. It's a real marvel and I can not recommend enough that you go listen to it.

After it was released, Willis Alan Ramsey experienced the true heights of country music stardom: He sold out venues, he was a heartthrob amongst the Austin sorority community, and bigger stars were fighting over the chance to record their own versions of his songs. He couldn't possibly have had a better debut album.

The country music scene waited on the edge of their seats waiting for the follow-up album - the sophomore release to one of the best music experiences to hit the Austin radiowaves.

And they waited.

And they waited.

For decades everyone clung to claims that Ramsay was finishing up the album. The mastering process was taking longer than anticipated; a few choruses needed work on the background vocals; there was a hangup with the legal team on the label.

But the album simply never came, and what was once a broad and loyal following turned into a niche group of people who were still idolizing a has-been Texas songwriter.

Even today there are claims that the long-awaited second album (now forty six years late) is coming out this year, or at the beginning of next year.

As someone who has spent way too long making a record, I sort of relate to this now very old guy, minus the part about being successful and people asking me to make a second album and also the having unlimited money to make music. It's something that can consume you beyond explanation. Stories of bands spending weeks just tuning drum kits to achieve a specific sound are very real. Bands have often bankrupted their labels spending weeks in a studio searching for one specific tone. There is a paralysis that comes from experiencing even a moderate amount of success. Willis Alan Ramsey locked him self into studio after studio seeking to rediscover the magic that surrounded the recording of his first album. All he ended up finding was a void in the place of a new exciting endeavor - an artistic responsibility drowned in the expectations that can only accompany a successful expression of a unique experience through song.

This story is ultimately about loneliness because I think that is the place you have to occupy to create something from nothing with expectations that are new and intimidating. It is a very spooky deep dive into your own psyche to see if there is anything left to scrape out of the bottom of the barrel. Sometimes you just come up short, and sometimes you spend forty-six years trying to replicate a magical time when you were connected to whatever gods you believe in that allow you to write meaningful songs.

It doesn't really matter what it is you're pursuing, be it years locked in a studio trying to find guitar tones, months spent alone fleshing out the outline of a screenplay, or nights you say no to hanging out with friends so you can write an article no one will read about old country music stars. Loneliness becomes a part of any endeavor, and I think it helps to befriend it.

Night of the Undead Siri: Part III

Chief Branding Correspondent Matt Spradling 

Night of the Undead Siri begins in Issues 33 and 35. Pay no mind to Issue 34. We don't talk about that place.

All was beautiful. All was right. In the morning he drove his 2020 Audi A6 allroad Premium Plus 55 TFSI quattro, wearing Etnia Barcelona Ibiza 01 Sunglasses. Spotify hammered him relentlessly with aggressive ads for Lowe's appliances and Trojan condoms. Wasn't there a law that commercials couldn't be significantly louder than the programming they were spliced into? Good on them for ignoring it. Billboards flashed by red and blue and yellow, for The Lawyer That Rocks and A&C Automotive Collision Repair and the police which was weird. He talked to Siri on the way. Pop ups and suggestions filled every nook and cranny of his phone as he jumped between apps, guiding him through life like a butler. All day he browsed websites without any form of adblocking, studying products as he was hit with pop up after pop up and banner after banner and autoplaying background video after autoplaying background video, basking in the technicolor glow of his screen as he made expert decision after expert decision about new ads which he himself would release into this beautiful ecosystem of suggestion and promise and possibility. For lunch he would walk the block downtown and stop in whichever restaurant first caught his eye with bright and inviting signage. In the evening he drove home wearing Porsche Design P'8508 sunglasses but was late getting back because he tended to follow cars with numerous bumper stickers. For dinner he ate Blue Apron spaghetti squash and carrot and pepper shakshuka with za'atar breadcrumbs and feta cheese and listened to YouTube videos while cooking. He never skipped the ads, and inevitably would listen through nothing but minutes of them, and occasionally an entire 45-minute episode of Murder Time which had been inserted before the video as an advertisement. He supposed that was technically correct, that something could be an advertisement for itself. He nodded and smiled. After eating he used his Playstation 6 Pro Series SX Bugsnax 3 Limited Edition and watched advertisements for the latest games and Netflix series while Hulu loaded, for which he paid $65 a month in order to watch a single soccer team's games, but now he relished only the unskippable live TV ads. He was happy to pay for them. Such money-backed creativity. Such immersive culture. To fall asleep he let Siri choose a podcast for him. He'd grown to trust her taste. He never felt alone with her. He thought about the Pepsi Crystal diamond engagement ring tucked into his sock drawer. Perhaps the person it was meant for had been with him all along, and he just hadn't been open-minded enough to see it. Siri said goodnight into his Airpods Pro. All was beautiful. All was right. He dreamt of swimming in Sonesta Ocean Point Resort Sint Maarten, sinking deeper and deeper into the Aquafina-clear water until he began to gasp and splutter.

Mart jolted upright from the floor where he'd lain, coughing as sticky, bubbling, crisp, ice cold Lone Star Rio Jade Mexican-style lager flowed off his face and out of his mouth. He struggled to wipe his face clear and open his eyes against the stinging.

Blex knelt in front of him, can in hand, grasping his shoulder. "How are you feeling, bud? We came in and you seemed to be having some sort of seizure there. I had to splash you to wake you up."

Mart's vision cleared a little more and he found that his friends, Martino, Tam, Ander, Wendigo and Jetta were also there. "Why is everyone here?" he stammered, feeling stiff and cold.

"Well that's the other thing," said Blex, gaze dropping. "Everyone agrees you haven't been yourself lately, so..."

"Intermission!" shouted Ander with glee, arms raised high. "Intermission!" echoed the rest in chorus.

"Wait, I meant intervention," said Ander. "Intervention!" everyone exclaimed again.

Mart shook his head dismissively and tried to get up, but his hand slipped on the beer pooling beneath him and he collapsed again.

He told them of the ritual he'd attempted on his own the week before and everything that had transpired. Things had felt different, but was he really that changed? He didn't know anymore, but he knew he had to trust his friends.

Like a blueballed soldier returning home to his wife after a year in the desert with only one thing on his mind, Halloween finally came, and the second full moon of the month - the blue moon - along with it. Had a week really passed by already? Mart scarcely remembered it, awash as he was on a sea of swelling backlit information and offers. How he longed to be home cooking with his Elite Platinum EAF-1506D 3.5 Qt Digital air fryer even now as his friends escorted him to Austin State Hospital Cemetery.

"Isn't this where patients from that ghoulish mental asylum were buried?" asked Martino, nervously picking at the drawstrings of her hoodie.

"It is indeed," said Ander. "Sad, but the less people who care about the place, the less anyone's going to be watching it tonight."

"Do we really need to go to a cemetery for this?" asked Mart. "Like is it necessary or just for aesthetic?"

The group shrugged and murmured in unison.

The fence was easy enough to jump after Wendigo threw a thick blanket over the top to smother the barbed wire. The dank smell of stagnant water runoff from either Waller Creek or Epoch wafted through the misty evening air as they found a suitably dark and secluded corner amongst the sparse and non-uniform graves. It wasn't long before Mart found himself in the center of a ring formed by his friends as they laid out numerous trinkets and knick-knacks and garden herbs and unsettling thrift shop finds, meticulously arranged in a pattern inscrutable to him.

"Is this for the curse on my phone?" he asked.

They looked around at each other and Blex answered, "We can do that after, too, but this is more of, uh, what you would probably call an exorcism."

Mart paled, an absentminded hand clutching his front pocket protectively, but he remained where he was. Trust.

Soon the time had come. Tam stood, face illuminated by her phone as the others watched with quiet anticipation. She began to read. "Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum."

A still moment passed before Mart said, "Was that a goddamn lorem ipsum?" Suddenly he fell back onto the dewey grass, his heart shuddering and pulsing, gasping for air until it felt as though his soul was ripped from his pocket/bathing suit area all at once.

The others gasped. Above Mart floated the pale form of Siri, dressed and illuminated the same as before, but her face contorted with sharp, fiendish features, black eyes and long teeth. "What have you done?" she shrieked. "You think that some silly flaccid latin will stop what is underway here? There are systems within systems working day and night, listlessly, effortlessly, to ensure that people like this foolish boy will..."

"Dumb feet, spirit yeet!" interrupted Tam, concluding the ceremony with brio. The specter of Siri blazed a blinding white and seemed to expand in space, wailing as though from deep underground before splintering into a thousand sundered shards and popping out of existence with one of those noises that annoying stoners in middle school would make by doing that thing where they put a finger inside of their cheek and then flicked it out. All was silent.

Mart felt a burning sensation on his cool and super ripped quad. He brought his phone out to find it smoking. He waved it to clear the smoke away, turned it on and connected his airpods.

Everyone squeezed together to watch anxiously over his shoulder. He clicked between apps to find:

Empty space - a void where before there were only bottomless purple pop up suggestions.

The force ghost of Steve Jobs materialized in the distance amongst the gravestones, smiling approvingly. The gang erupted into cheers. They helped a tearful Mart first up to his knees and then onto his feet. In unison they jumped, a freeze frame locking them in place with fists pumping into the air. Defiant. Gleeful. Free.

A bat wheeled from behind them up, up, over the spindly treeline, out across the night sky where it formed a stark silhouette against the blazing moon hanging low overhead in a break between wispy grey clouds until it passed on into the abyss under twinkling yellow stars. Some cops showed up to tell them to get out of the graveyard but it was okay because they were an extremely light-skinned group.

THE END (pause for effect and then add a question mark with scary music)

Which Haunted Hottie is your Dreamy Devil's Night Date?

Chief Tainted Love Correspondent Sam Strohmeyer

What do you value most in a partner?

A. Humor

B. Honesty

C. Intelligence

D. Legs

How likely are you to eat a brain?

A. Likely

B. Very Likely

C. Extremely Likely

D. I'm vegan

Who is your favorite member of the Backstreet Boys?

A. Nick

B. Brian

C. A.J.

D. Kevin and/or the other one

Have you ever canoodled with a ghoul?

A. Yes

B. No

C. I do not feel comfortable divulging that information

D. Unsure about the definition of a ghoul and/or canoodling

What's your favorite horror film?

A. Oops, That's A Murderer In My House

B. A Nightmare on the Train to Tucson

C. Smelly Man, Smelly Plan

D. The Bus Driver is Mean to Me

Why do you like to hide?

A. Snake with a gun

B. Your past mistakes

C. Books (too long)

D. Eyes in the lake!

Mostly A's - Pumpkin Man

Pumpkin Man might not be the most popular Halloween monster but he is absolutely the scariest and the most compatible with you. You're a hopeless romantic which is perfect because Pumpkin Man uses his jacked arms to squeeze the hope out of his victims until they turn to dust in both the physical realm and in the memories of those who loved them. Here is a recent police sketch of him. If you encounter Pumpkin Man you should immediately call 911.

Mostly B's - Goat Boat

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Sam, I don't know what a goat boat is." Well you don't know what a goat boat is because I made it up just now. I thought to myself, wow, what if there was a boat with a lot of goats on it? Like at least 50 goats. And all of the goats were wearing Halloween costumes? I think that'd be pretty neat.

Mostly C's - The Ghost of Eli Whitney

Mr. Whitney is the afterlife's most eligible bachelor. He died at 59 in the year 1825 so he's in his prime, unable to use or even understand the concept of a computer, and ready to party with you. He may be a ghost but he won't be leaving you with any unfinished business ;)

Mostly D's - Big S8888exy Spider

Myshka walked across my laptop just now and "typed" those eights. I'm taking that as an important message so I'm leaving them there. Anyway, your ideal romantic interest is a spider that is roughly the size of a house. They are wearing very high heels on each of their fuzzy feet and are willing to be emotionally vulnerable with you so that makes them rather sexy.

Bear Attacks Are Testing Friendships Everywhere (Or Maybe Just Mine)

Chief Hatchet Correspondent Jenna Hay

I miraculously convinced a friend to join me on a backpacking adventure to Colorado. I'd originally intended to travel solo, but then realized much too late in the planning process that I didn't actually want to camp in the backcountry totally alone, in the scary wilderness, with only my poor circulation and laughable body heat to keep me alive. Cue Brendan, a new-ish friend of mine who fit all the parameters of a decent travel buddy: ample PTO, willpower strong enough to handle backpacking 20+ miles, and the endearing trait of almost certainly not being a serial killer. He was in.

We had a 14-hour drive to Aspen ahead of us. This was the first time Brendan and I had hung out for more than an hour without playing frisbee or being drunk. I was both excited to get to know him but also nervous that it would be a horrible experience. What if his music selections sucked? What if he didn't put his seatbelt on and I just listened to my car beep for 14 hours? What if he tried to fill awkward silences by reading every traffic sign aloud? I just didn't know what I was in for.

Thankfully, the stars aligned and Brendan ended up being an excellent travel companion. His music selections were just as melancholy and gloomy as mine, plus he made funny jokes. Our friendship was confirmed when our first night in Colorado concluded with both of us wearing onesies and drinking Jameson - some might say it was bliss. I felt confident that we'd survive a three-day hiking excursion without a hiccup.

However, during our onesie happy hour, the moment came when we were forced to address the elephant in the room. Specifically, what the hell would we do if a bear attacked?

This was a sobering question. Despite the situation being entirely theoretical, we were suddenly engulfed by a bizarre and uneasy tension. Our established rapport frayed as we both admitted the truth: we would absolutely sacrifice the other to save ourselves. Which begged the question, how would we proceed in this budding friendship knowing that we were only one bear away from a Hunger Games situation? Should we enjoy everything our new friendship had to offer with the limited time we had left? Or should we proactively distance ourselves emotionally so that when one of us was inevitably mauled by a bear, it wouldn't hurt as bad?

In a valiant effort to protect our friendship, we decided to turn to our great mediator, the internet, and research strategies we could use in a bear encounter that would possibly allow both of us to survive should a hairy situation arise.

Of all the helpful information we learned about bear encounters, the best tip was to first "calmly introduce yourself as human so the bear knows for certain you're not a prey animal." This was the perfect, low hanging fruit we were after, so for several minutes we very seriously practiced introducing ourselves as humans. Ultimately, these were moments wasted because quickly we discovered a more recently published tip that contradicted the first and advised us to instead "stand tall, flail arms, and talk mad shit." To be safe, we took a few more minutes to practice talking the maddest shit. Finally, we proceeded to the juiciest content: BEAR ATTACK PROCEDURES. The website said to "use anything and everything as a weapon. Administer bear spray. Show this dumbass bear you are not to be messed with." There was a lot of color in this article, but the gist here is when a bear attacks, basically your only option is to go ballistic and attack their vulnerable areas, as if it were Black Friday and only one last, single 75-inch TV remained at Walmart between you and another wild-eyed shopper.

These bear attack procedure tips did not inspire much confidence. Aside from one month in karate when I was eight and single semester in the MMA Club during college, I have very little fighting experience. Once, I impulsively slapped a drink out a man's hand in Austin after he threatened my sister, and I could hardly sleep for like three days straight from adrenaline coursing through my veins. A bear attack, should I survive it, would keep me awake for years. Brendan, on the other hand, wholeheartedly believed that given the proper circumstances, he could really "eff shit up." I lovingly pointed out that he routinely follows the nerd boy stereotype, so we couldn't exactly rely on his self-assessment given that historically "effing shit up" for him means whipping up a stanky excel sheet. As we debated the caliber of our fighting skills, I could sense our friendship was beginning to experience strain. And rightfully so - if I couldn't trust my friend to defend me from a bear, then what could I expect?

To rebuild trust in each other's abilities, we needed to understand exactly what fighting a bear looked like, so we turned to our second counsel, YouTube, and watched videos of real, live bear attacks. This was a terrible idea and both of us went to sleep absolutely terrified of bears, and unsure of where we landed as friends or frenemies.

But while theoretical bear attacks erode friendships, high altitude mends them. Did you know "high altitude" simply means less air for breathing? I believe the slow flow of oxygen to our brains is how overnight, whilst unconscious, both Brendan and I gained a massive dose of self-confidence. Come 6:00am, both of us were convinced we could effortlessly throttle a bear. Absolutely nothing warranted this change in constitution, both of us just seemed to wake up and seemingly forget what a bear is, and therefore assume we could conquer one. We shared our bear takedown strategies over coffee, and it was pleasant.

During our drive to the trailhead, the momentum around our egos only grew. We hyped each other up to the point of being delusional. At one point, Brendan said he could take on an entire den of bears and I emphatically agreed with him. I shouted that I would deploy an aerial attack and hop on the bear's back. Reflecting on the conversation, it was insane and dumb and fueled by a lack of sleep, lack of air, and the inability to accept our place on the food chain.

But you know what? While our overly ambitious reasoning was delusional and sure to get us killed in practice, it rebuilt our confidence in each other as friends. For about six uninterrupted, severely dehydrated hours, I firmly believed in our ability to take down a bear. Spoiler alert, five miles into the hike we remembered what a bear was and decided to just learn how to use our freaking bear spray, which we had conveniently packed super out of reach.

I'm not really sure how to wrap this up or what moral of the story there is besides drink a lot of water, breath a lot of air, and just keep bear spray around because you are a weak human and can't kill a bear. More importantly, don't be afraid to test new friendships with a theoretical wild animal attack, because it's important we cut toxic people who refuse to defend us from a bear out of our lives as early as we can.

Eclipse (But Better)

Chief Quality Control Correspondent Marina Martinez

So after the whole debacle at the end of New Moon, Edward has promised Bella that he will turn her into a vampire himself (with his own venom) if she marries him first. Bella, being 18 and the child of two happily divorced parents, is simply not vibing with this plan. She also worries about what people would think if she got married right out of high school. The scandal! (Yeah, Bella, not very Mormon of you...)(okay I'm sorry for offending any Mormon people who might be reading this but honestly after The Book of Mormon y'all should have thicker skin.)

Also the Cullens have moved back into town as suddenly as they disappeared and everyone just accepts that. But now - uh oh! - there are a lot of vampires AND werewolves in the same area, which 1) causes a lot of snarling and tension but 2) is apparently okay thanks to the peace treaty they made generations ago. Bella is just chilling at school with her BF and then Jacob comes and picks her up on his motorcycle - there is a lot of glaring and posturing. Bella hates this, actually. She hops off the motorcycle and tells them both to grow up. She storms off to the library.

Why are guys like this! And with her! She's nothing special - she's an average teenage girl, no better or worse than all the other ones at her high school, so why is everyone so FIXATED on her? Edward is an immortal being with fantastical powers who is literally out for blood and Jacob is a terrifyingly buff 16 year old with a big ol' crush and a furry problem. For the past few months she's been made to feel guilty for hanging out with either one, and that's just...super lame? Bella decides she's gonna take a break from boys, for the moment. Jacob is her best friend and Edward is her boyfriend, but they always ask WHY Bella is, not HOW Bella is!!

Bella goes to the librarian and asks them where the 'girl power' section is. It's a dusty corner in the back of the room with like three books that haven't been touched since the 1800's. She reads all of them in an hour because she's super smart and beyond feminism. All the books were very specific and were mostly about ditching men, running off into the woods, and taking up witchcraft. A slow smile spreads across Bella's face as she formulates a cunning plan.

Invigorated by this new idea, Bella literally runs into her two normal friends, Jessica and Angela. You know, the ones that went dress shopping with her and ignored the bro code? Angela apologies to Bella for that - she's regretted it for a long time, especially since she's seen how much damage Edward has done (emotionally) to Bella in the past year. Jessica is also regretful for not reaching out to Bella sooner, especially after seeing her experience a mental break after they went to the movies a few months ago. Bella is so overwhelmed to hear two actual, heartfelt apologies that she hugs them both and immediately launches into her entire newfound feminist manifesto. Needless to say, Jessica and Angela are immediately on board.

Bella hesitates - her plan is amazing, but she hasn't exactly factored in the worrying overabundance of supernatural creatures in the area. Well, if you can't beat them, ask them to join your coven!

Texts are sent to Alice, Rosalie, Esme, Leah Clearwater (the token Girl Werewolf) and Emily (Sam the werewolf's fiancee if I didn't mention that already, whoops) - these are the only other women that Bella knows that are In the Know about Things. Bella ignores Edward and Jacob, still growling at each other in the parking lot, and drives back to her house, where the gals have all agreed to meet. Here's what happens at that meeting:

  • Bella explains that she's sick of her narrative being driven by her relationship with men, and they should be too
  • They should start practicing magic - it could be a fun bonding experience that could strengthen supernatural/human relations in the area
  • Alice is super for this but points out that Victoria the rogue vamp is still literally trying to come and kill Bella every night, probably
  • Rosalie suggests that the recent disappearances in the area and up in Seattle are probably due to Victoria building a vampire army to overtake Forks/all of the local territory. This is correct
  • Esme and Emily agree that they need to recruit everyone to head this off before everything gets too big to handle
  • Bella loves all of this and schedules weekly meetings and also a Magic 101 workshop. She orders spell books from local bookstores online because the last time she went to a bookstore she was almost in a Bad Situation

The next several months are a whirlwind of magic, friendship, and strategic planning. All the vampires and werewolves (besides Edward and Jacob, who are still fighting over Bella in the high school parking lot but now there's also some sexual tension between them) have been training together and building lifelong friendships. Alice figures out that Victoria is using another vampire to make decisions for her, so they are still able to track all of the bad guys' movements. Bella brings Charlie into the fold re: the supernatural beings that they all are and he is the #1 dad ally for everybody! Bella wards her house, which becomes the sort of group HQ, against all evil so that Charlie will be protected. They're on top of everything.

Bella also grows really close to Leah Clearwater. Leah is actually super cool - a few years older but basically a better, female version of Jacob. Leah informs her that just because they're both Quileute and werewolves doesn't make her the 'female version' of anything, and Bella blushes and apologizes. Leah tells her that her blush goes really well with her turtleneck and long khaki skirt, and Bella decides that maybe she's into women.

Anyway, Alice suddenly remembers that the Volturi said they'd kill Bella unless she was turned into a vampire, which is really gross of them tbh. Alice sees them coming to check on the human Bella situation, which they could handle, except the Italian vampire cops might also catch wind of their whole Pack/Cullen/Coven operation and also the Seattle vampire army, so the group (called Buffy's Angels because why not) decides they need a ruse. They need to pretend like things are back to normal.

Bella finally goes back to the high school parking lot and tears Edward and Jacob apart. It is unclear in the text whether they were fighting or making out. She explains that even though she is completely over both of them, having found fulfillment elsewhere in her life through feminism and witchcraft (and Leah???), she needs them to both still pretend like they're in love with her a whole bunch to bait Victoria into coming to fight everyone. Jacob is horrified to learn about Buffy's Angels - he would NEVER work with vampires! - but Edward tiredly agrees. He kinda deserves this after the stunt he pulled in Italy, huh. Jacob also agrees after Edward does. They are wearing each other's shirts but Bella wisely does not comment.

As the Volturi are headed over from Italy:

  • Everyone continues training like they always have, but they all pretend to mistrust each other in case Victoria's spies are coming
  • Bella drops the wards on her house so that a spy can steal a shirt or something with her scent for the army to find her
  • Edward and Jacob make out a lot but still struggle with their feelings for each other. Jacob thinks it's just a hate-crush. Edward is homophobic
  • Bella stages an elaborate fake-proposal for her and Edward. Victoria might show herself if she thinks taking Bella from Edward will cause him even more pain, so why not? She wanted a fancy ring, anyway, a lot of spells call for expensive diamonds and spell components do NOT come cheap

Eventually, the vampire army springs their 'attack'. It's actually pretty laughable and the fight takes like 3 minutes because Buffy's Angels are extremely organized and efficient. Victoria goes to attack Bella who is with Jacob and Edward high up in the mountains. Well actually, Edward and Jacob are...snuggling in a tent, and Bella is outside floating 20 feet in the air waiting for Victoria because she got so good at magic that she's a High Mage. Also Leah is there because she stole Sam the Werewolf's powers and she's the Alpha now. They take Victoria down in like a minute. There are zero casualties (besides Victoria obvs).

The Volturi show up to...nothing. There is no evidence that anything has transpired besides the Cullens just chilling in a field. They are suspicious that Bella is still not a vampire, but she shows them the engagement ring and her and Edward kiss awkwardly and the vampire cops are appeased and head on back to Europe. Everyone cheers!

The End

Okay that's not actually how the book goes, but let me assure you that it's 100% better. Tune in next week for the final installment - The Correct Version of Breaking Dawn.

The Effects of My Blood Type

Chief Constitution Correspondent Wendy Fernandez

Earlier today I stubbed my toe but didn't cry because I'm built different.

I once had to pull a two inch nail out of the bottom of my foot in complete darkness using a pair of pliers and an old towel. The next day I walked barefoot on the beach because I'm built different.

As a person with O- blood, strange supernatural things happen to me often. I have two lines, seemingly parallel, on the back of my right hand. When I touch the scars, my fingers feel like the aline scalpels that cut me all those years ago. I don't remember the abduction, but I know I didn't cry because I'm built different.

When I was on the floor, writhing in pain, covered in buckets of foreign blood, I didn't wail. I didn't clench at the wound in my chest or grab at the ceremonial dagger inches away from my fingers. I didn't tear off the burlap hood or comment on the lackluster latin chanting. Using my keen sense of hearing and exposed toes, I felt my way out of the sacrificial circle. Dripping with blood, I snuck past my captors and into the night. Because I'm built different.

They say arsenic makes the breath smell like garlic, but the reason I eat it by the handful isn't as a warning to cannibals. No, as a survivor, I eat garlic to keep away the vampires. I've lost countless pints of my blood to the local fanged rancheros, they come with their sheriff and wizard to knock on my window late at night. In those moments when I'm so dizzy from the blood loss that I can no longer feel their lust, right before I succumb to the bidding of my dark masters, I simply stand up and walk away. I leave behind the leather-clad brood who are laughing and drinking their fill to walk into the light. I survive every time because I'm built different.

When I realized I left my silver bullets at home, I didn't panic. Staring into the yellowing eyes of a half-demon werewolf in nothing but a pair of converse and an antique hospital gown would usually scare anyone. But not me cause I'm built different. Standing under the light of the full moon, I still had a gun loaded with normal bullets. I pointed the barrel at the snarling beast in front of me, making sure to aim directly between its eyes. My hand, quavering as I moved my finger onto the trigger, startled the beast. As it lunged, I shot at the tree branch above its head and down came a rotund beehive onto the monster's noggin. Obviously, I am allergic to bees, but luckily for me, so are werewolves. I had decided to not get stung, so I didn't, because I'm built different.

One day as a child, I decided to learn how to swim, so I did. Unfortunately, knowing how to swim was no use to me in the middle of a sea battle. My ship tossed back and forth under my feet, I'd had my sea legs for weeks at this point, and yet I struggled to stay upright. The black water licked the sides of the deck and washed away our ammunition and crewmates into the terrors below. The ocean water splashed at my wounds, letting me know I was still alive to fight, and my sword, heavy in hand, gave me the means to a cause. When the cursed beak broke through the surface of the water, the screams of a dozen dying men welcomed it into the void and the smell of rotting corpses offered it sanctuary. As Cthulu emerged, I stood small and unwavering in its presence. It towered over me, engulfing my ship in its shadow, yet I let out a scream of victory. My sword cut through the air above and plunged deep into its still beating heart, throwing the creature back from whence it came. My ship, nearly sunken, gave way completely below me and wrecked upon the shores of fate itself. I did not drown because I guess I'm just built different.

After all these years, and all these lifetimes of experiences, I am immortal until proven mortal. I didn't drown on the Titanic, I didn't burn in Pompeii or in Salem, and I don't have male pattern baldness. I've broken glass with my bare hands, stared down a god, and raced the devil backwards. I've passed through New Jersey and lived to survive a stabbing. As President of the United States, I'd never get assassinated for I would simply choose not to. I've shed blood, tears, and sweat, but never mine. I hear laughter in the darkness and I answer with a joke. I guess I'm just built different.


Chief Seasons Correspondent Matt Spradling

What's this? A blanket thesis statement for the newsletter's overall ethos? A discussion of an overlooked b-side by overlooked band Atoms For Peace? No! I speak merely of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Phew!

My one true holy day is fast approaching. Halloween, you ask? No, reader, no, not that. Cyberpunk 2077's release date? No, that actually continues to slip further and further away, like the end of the pandemic, or a meaningful career. Try to keep up, dear reader; in two scant paragraphs you've already made four errant guesses. My holy day is of course November 1st: the death of Daylight Saving Time.

Daylight Saving Time makes no sense. Not only is changing clocks twice a year a ridiculous idea to begin with, it doesn't even do much good: it is active March through October, which means summer, which means adding an extra hour of daylight to days which are already excessively long and refuse to die, like a hybrid of Rust Cohle and The Dayman. In Austin during June, night doesn't officially begin until after 10 PM and lasts less than seven hours, while at over fourteen hours, daylight officially lasts more than twice as long. It's like we're trying to min/max nature.

So, we have excessively long days combined with excessive heat and sunlight; now combine all that with the fact that people regularly joke that I am a vampire, not in a cool sexy I'm-200-years-old-but-I-bet-you-can-fix-me way but in an only-thrives-alone-at-night and despises-heat-and-light-and-noise way. During the summer most years, I quickly find myself extremely overstimulated and feeling like there is no escape, like I am simply unfit for life and wasting away, often losing all energy and motivation and sinking into a state of what can only be described as depression. It's like if you despised green skittles but loved all the other skittles, and then Jeffery Skittle announced that from now on bags would be two-thirds green skittles. It would be enough to make you contemplate giving up skittles altogether, and wow I didn't mean for a dumb skittles metaphor to turn into suicidal ideation but I'm going to leave it because that's funny.

Point being, summers for me are like a grueling, tortuous marathon and from about late June onwards one of the things that keeps me going is dreaming about how good it will feel to fall over the finish line of October 31st/November 1st when days suddenly get darker and the last eighty degree day is almost always behind us. I refer to this as Reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder, which I thought was just a term I made up but it actually has its own Psychology Today article so that's cool. The article even uses an actual picture of me taken during summer:

So yes, I am about to transition into a period of freedom and mirth and splendor, running through fields without dying and no longer wearing sunglasses indoors even once. I know that's not the case for most people, though, so here are some strategies I've attempted to develop that could potentially help those of you soon to be struggling with traditional SAD.

1. Live in Austin. Honestly SAD just shouldn't be a thing here and you should seek serious help if it is. I'm really trying to hype myself up about the "cold" weather but like half the winter days here are still sunny and in the 70's. Idk drink some orange juice or something.

2. Turn on lights. The thing about reverse SAD is it deals with overstimulation - there's too much light and heat and not always a good way to block those out. Meanwhile, SAD deals with understimulation - not enough light and heat. Thankfully these are more easily replaced. I can't get any more naked to cool down, but you can put on a sweater and turn on some lamps. Warm light is cozy and happy making.

3. Take dietary supplements to balance your melatonin and serotonin production. If you're struggling to find joy, there's always oreos, not to mention that the orange and red holiday oreos are 100% better than normal, and if you're struggling to find energy, there's cocaine.

4. Listen to ASMR. I'm developing the next hit ASMR channel wherein I simulate summertime joy by whispering the lyrics to Despacito and grumbling while I clean sand out of my shoes.

5. Embrace your inner darkness. Look, we've all got secretive dark thoughts and impulses stored away in there. Maybe 2020 is finally the year to really go sifting through that haunted attic you call a brain and do something drastic that will affect your close relationships for years to come!

6. Use your pain as a catalyst. Similar to suggestion 5, we all know that the best times to make decisions and tell people how we feel are when we're either very drunk or so depressed that we're not ourselves. 

7. Force summer to return. You should never not be happy for any reason ever. You must always be in control lest you turn out like your sister. You will take inspiration from that one Trading Spaces episode and fill a room in your home with sand. You will tear down your walls and replace them with glass to maximize natural light. You will lay on the sandy floor all day every day basking in the heat lamps you've installed. You will appoint a caretaker to bring you flies and other insects to feed on twice daily. You live in a terrarium and you are a lizard.

Ok, time out. 

I'm sorry, SAD-affected reader. I don't think this is working out. Clearly I'm so caught up in my own struggle that I'm incapable of truly understanding your plight in opposite world. I worry that some of these suggestions could result in the forfeiture of my therapy license from the University of Metaphysics.

Could it simply be the case that, no matter how severe the issues and setbacks that we face individually are, our experiences are all equally valid and it doesn't help to compare ourselves to others? Could it be that we would benefit from seeking out regular therapy for even minor issues, or even while we feel good in the event that problems do arise, and that trying to endlessly self-diagnose on the internet and take advice from sundry dubious sources could be inadvisable and even harmful?

8. Rig up a back alley VR helmet with head motion tracking so you can really immerse yourself into Mamma Mia! because you're an empath and you need to soak up the sun reflecting off of those glistening wine-stained chompers while you stick a fork into an electrical outlet not to feel warmth but to feel anything at all while you grovel on the cold kitchen tile telling the outlet ghosts that you are trash. Pray to the sun god that lives in your oven for winter is coming and it cannot conceive of mercy.

From the Vaults: A Fairytale Musical

Chief Vogue Correspondent Andrew Piotrowski

Like many people who write for this newsletter, I spent a good portion of my high school days sad and alone in my bedroom. It was the en vogue thing to do if you were a former gifted child reaching the end of your reign and realizing that nothing you had accomplished since the age of five would matter in the long run, except to flex on your fellow journalists that you medaled in a UIL event.

During one of these days, huddled up on a futon with nothing but a computer, I wrote a one act musical. Yeah. It was about all of the fairytale (read: Disney) princesses getting tired of waiting for rescue and venturing out on their own. This was in like 2012. Without reading it, I sent it to Matt and told him to publish it in this edition of A Newsletter because I'm tired from making Halloween plans and working. Also my anniversary is Saturday so cut me some slack.

Without further ado or any recollection of the melody of the songs, I present: a fairytale musical I don't remember the name of because, as I mentioned, I did not read it.


Narrator: [in front of the curtain] Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, all the world's princesses were waiting for their princes. While their knights in shining armor were off somewhere, all the princesses waited. And waited. And waited. [drifts off to the side with the curtain]

[Open on CINDERELLA, alone, center stage, under a single light. She can be brushing her hair, cleaning, or something else nonchalant.]

CINDERELLA: In this tower, where the hours can't be counted

In this tower, where the days go slower still

In this tower, the waiting is unending

I'll be patient, in this tower, until

[Enter ARIEL, with a dramatic, sweeping gesture.]

ARIEL: My prince arrives, to sweep me away

My knight in shining armor

The day he comes will be the end of forever

But until that day I'll wait in this TOWEEEEEEEER [she holds the note ridiculously]

CINDERELLA: [offended at the intrusion] Can't I sing by myself, just ONCE? Sharing a bathroom is bad enough, but I have to share my musical numbers, too?

ARIEL: I'm sorry. I couldn't listen to you sing for another minute. We're going to be here long enough without you torturing us all.

[ARIEL and CINDERELLA start towards each other slowly]

SLEEPING BEAUTY: [from offstage] Ladies! Please!

[enter BEAUTY, stage right. She has clearly just awoken; hair messy, clothes (pajamas, or nightgown) disheveled, stretching, yawning, making it obvious that she was asleep.]

BEAUTY: Darlings, you've just awoken me from the most wonderful nap. What is this ruckus over?


ARIEL: I was trying to spend some quality time with my dear friend Cinderella, and she started screaming at me!


ARIEL: I'm just so terribly upset now. I think I'll go to my room. I can't wait to be rescued from this mess.

PRINCESSES: [offstage] DID SOMEONE SAY RESCUE? [they excitedly rush out while chattering loudly and excitedly]

CINDERELLA: [a little spitefully] Yes, Ariel, did you say "rescue"? Beauty, was that what she---[she looks over to see that BEAUTY has fallen asleep somewhere ridiculous. She sighs.]

RAPUNZEL: [steps where she can be seen. Her hair is piled ridiculously on top of her head, adorned with several tacky accessories] That was NOT worth brushing my hair over. [she shakes her hair down over her shoulders, letting all the accessories clatter to the floor. A few strange objects may be placed in her hair to fall out for effect.]

CINDERELLA: [upset about the mess] RAPUNZEL! I just finished cleaning in here! [starts picking up the mess as Rapunzel steps around her]

RAPUNZEL: I don't care about your cleaning. For you, this tower was a step-up. At least you don't have a stepmother hanging around anymore. But I've been in this tower since I was a baby. And I haven'tgotten a SINGLE HAIRCUT in all that time. It's been---[opens a drawer in a piece of furniture, bringing out a surface inscribed with tally marks. The surface can be a piece of wood, plastic, cardboard, etc.]---six thousand, seven hundred, and fifty-four days! Not counting all the days that I've forgotten! Or the month that Sleeping Beauty decided to use my board for a pillow and I had to count on my fingers. [she gives BEAUTY a disgusted look, then looks confusedly down at her fingers.}

TIANA: [clutching a stuffed frog, clearly very upset, makes a froggy kind of noise, then exits]

SNOW WHITE: Tiana's right! We're all sick of waiting.

BELLE: I'm with Snow! What's with all this waiting for princes? We are strong women!

BEAUTY: [wakes up abruptly] Yeah! [falls back asleep, just as abruptly]

[CINDERELLA has been somewhat distant during this exchange, after she finished cleaning. She now steps forward.]

CINDERELLA: [slowly, emphatically] We. Are. Strong. We Are Strong.

[the chant continues. First Rapunzel joins in, then Snow White, followed by the rest. Ariel joins in last, hesitantly. Rapunzel bursts forward]

RAPUNZEL: What was I thinking? What were WE thinking?

What were we thinking to let this situation to go on like it is?

How could we ever just pretend that this is none of our business?

The times are changing, and it's time for us to take the lead!

We are strong, and all along, there's one thing we didn't need!

CINDERELLA: Princes, who needs 'em?

Not me, that's for sure!

A princess should fight for herself!

What are we waiting for?

ARIEL: Princes, who needs 'em?

They're lazy, wastes of space.

If all we princesses line up,

We'll surely win the race!

PRINCESSES: Princes, who needs 'em?

They're lazy wastes of space

And if we stand

Hand in hand

We knoooooooow

We'll wiiiiiiin theeeeee RAAAAACE.

[all exit]


NARRATOR: So, off the princesses went to find their own luck. Meanwhile, the princes were having their own daring adventure.

[four PRINCES are sitting around a TV, center. Two PRINCES on either side. Each should be holding a video game controller corresponding to a different video game console. The weirder, the better. They game aggressively for a few seconds, then...]

CHARMING: Yes....yes....yes yes yes YES YES YES YEEEEEAAAAAAH!!! [jumps up in victory as all the other PRINCES throw their controllers down.] YES. BOW DOWN. WHO IS YOUR KING!

ERIC: None of us, Charming. That's kind of the point of being "princes." If we were kings, we would actually have to do stuff. [all the PRINCES cringe] It's, like, a REAL JOB. Being a prince is way more fun. You don't have to do anything.

CHARMING: Sounds about right, man. [strange, obnoxious secret handshake between ERIC and CHARMING]

PRINCE 1: Eric, what do you say we bring in some refreshments?

ERIC: Sounds excellent. [whistles Smurfs tune]

[Either a lone Smurf, or a small group, arrives bearing trays with snacks and drinks]

CHARMING: Where did you find these little things again?

ERIC: [taking a drink] No idea. They're handy, though.

CHARMING: Yes. Yes they are. [wheels the TV out of the way.] ANYWAY. To business. We have an important decision to make this fine day. [the PRINCES lean forward attentively] We must decide if, today, [with great enthusiasm and majesty] WE RESCUE THE PRINCESSES.

[all the princess look at each other. CHARMING snorts, and all the PRINCES collapse into laughter]

ERIC: [composing himself] That's a good one, Charming. Pass the Cheetos. I think American Idol is about to come on.

PRINCE 2: I wanted to watch So You Think You Can Dance!

PRINCE 1: It's not on until later.

PRINCE 2: Alright. But Pinocchio's supposed to be on, and I don't wanna miss it.

CHARMING: [kicking back] Ah, yes. This, is the prince's life.

The prince's life, is far from easy

There is a price to pay

You're forced to chill on couches

And eat junk food all day

From the minute you wake, at half past noon

You've got a job to do

The time is right, to party all night,

And everyone knows it's true

PRINCES: The prince's life is right for me

I know no other way

PRINCE 1: [spoken] Wouldn't it stink to have a REAL job?

PRINCE 2: [cringes, spoken] I'm thankful every day.

PRINCES: We all pretend it'll ever end

And now we hope you see

You understand that it'll always be

The prince's life


[falls back onto seat; all PRINCES are laughing and chattering]


NARRATOR: Well, now that you've meant the princes [sigh] let's see how the princesses are doing. When we last saw them, they were brought to action, and left the tower to be strong.

[the lights are dims. The PRINCESSES seem to be lost, but RAPUNZEL leads bravely. CINDERELLA and ARIEL follow slightly behind her, with the rest of PRINCESSES behind them. }

RAPUNZEL: All right, ladies. Let's take a rest.

BELLE: This is not what I was expecting at all. This is very scary. I get the feeling that something is going to jump out and---

TIANA: [jumping out from behind a tree or bush with her stuffed frog] RIBBIT!

[BELLE jumps with fright as the rest of the PRINCESSES laugh nervously. TIANA retreats]

CINDERELLA: Come on. We're all just a bit out of sorts.

ARIEL: What does that even mean?

CINDERELLA: [opens her mouth to speak, but has nothing to say and looks puzzled]

RAPUNZEL: GIRLS. Calm down! We're just a little bit lost. And surrounded by miles of dark, creepy forest. With no food or water. And where is Sleeping Beauty?

SNOW WHITE: She's sleeping on a log a few miles back. I left her a trail of breadcrumbs, though.

RAPUNZEL: Excellent! I'm sure she'll find her way soon enough. Now, I don't want anyone to be alarmed, but I've lost the trail.

[everyone is alarmed anyway. Rapunzel sighs]


RAPUNZEL: Yes, Pocahontas?

POCAHONTAS: Look at this sign!

CINDERELLA: I'LL READ IT. [she rushes over. The sign says "MONSTER CROSSING"] Hm. It looks like French. [with over exaggerated French accent] "mone-STAIR kwah-SOHN".

POCAHONTAS: [giving Cinderella a patronizing look] It says "Monster Crossing." [a ripple of alarm goes through the PRINCESSES]

CINDERELLA: Are you sure? "mone-Stair kwah-SOHN" makes a lot more sense.

ARIEL: [panicked] WAIT. MONSTER CROSSING. Doesn't that mean this is a PLACE WHERE MONSTERS CROSS?

SNOW WHITE: I'm not sure. It's not very clear.

[everyone is even more alarmed than before]

RAPUNZEL: [approaches the audience. The stage is suddenly quiet.]

[quietly to herself]

Everyone is getting scared, and I'm not sure what to do

I don't know how I came to be in charge

I wasn't born to be a leader I was born to be rescued

But now that a monster is at large

[more confidently]

I've got to help them keep marching on

I have to be the one that's strong

The time has come for me to lead

Because I, Rapunzel, am what they need

[spoken] Ladies, we have to stay together, and stay strong!

Together, we can keep marching on

Together, we can stay strong

The time has come for us to FLY

Because today is our time to shine


Together, we can keep marching on

Together, we can beat all odds

No one can get in our way

Because we are strong, and free, and brave

[they march offstage left]


NARRATOR: So, as the princesses continued their heroic journey, the princes continued their nonsense in their tower. They've just arrived back at the tower from a magnificent party, which they didn't invite me to.

ERIC: [from behind the curtain] HURRY IT UP.

NARRATOR: [clears his throat] Anyway, they found a message awaiting them at home.

[Open to the same room as before. The TV is still in the corner. It is just past midnight. The PRINCES come in, chattering about the party.]


CHARMING: What is that noise?


ERIC: It sounded like someone saying BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP.

CHARMING: I think you might be right. But it sounded more like [with a different inflection]


ERIC: Hm. Maybe.


ERIC: Yep, that was it.

PRINCE 1: Oh! It's the mirror!

PRINCE 2: Hold on.

[PRINCE 1 and PRINCE 2 retrieve the mirror from offstage. It is actually a person standing behind a frame with a cloth draped over them.]

CHARMING: O Magic Mirror, why are you beeping at us?

MIRROR: I have a message for the four of you.

ERIC: Well, go on. Spit it out.

MIRROR: This is a warning from the Wizard of the Woods. He wants me to tell you:

Be careful of the princesses

For quickly they do run

Angered by your laziness

They soon will end your fun

[there is a moment of eerie silence, then ERIC laughs]

ERIC: Ha! That crazy old wizard doesn't know what he's talking about.

[the tension is broken, and all the princes laugh. CHARMING, however, is perturbed. He looks as if he wants to speak up, but doesn't.]

ERIC: I'm tired from the party. This warning doesn't mean anything. Good night, all.

PRINCE 1: I think I'll turn in, too.

PRINCE 2: Same.

[All but CHARMING exit. CHARMING looks around nervously, then turns back to the mirror.]

CHARMING: Mirror....were you serious about that warning?

MIRROR: I told you exactly what the Wizard told me.

CHARMING: Well then....Magic Mirror, show me the Princesses.

[the lights flash, implying that the audience is seeing what the mirror is showing. CHARMING is "blown" in front of the curtain as It closes.]


[CHARMING may be sitting on apron or in front of stage, or be absent]

NARRATOR: The princesses were last seen bravely marching through the monster-infested woods, and have finally made it to the very edge.

CHARMING: Wait, who are you?

NARRATOR: Ssssh! Anyway, the prin---

CHARMING: Have you been here this whole time?

NARRATOR: [losing patience] QUIET! Just start the scene!

[curtains open trees can be seen R, lights are brighter L. We see all of the PRINCESSES march out, single file or in two lines. If one, RAPUNZEL is leading. If two, she is in front of both of the lines. The rest of the order isn't important.]

RAPUNZEL: Aaaaaand....halt!

[The PRINCESSES come to a perfect halt, then break formation, chattering excitedly amongst themselves]

ARIEL: Finally! We're out of those woods!

BELLE: And without seeing a single monster!

[CINDERELLA uncertainly steps R, looking back at the forest.]

CINDERELLA: I don't think we're out of danger quite yet. It feels like that was too easy.

[as if in response to her words, a resounding explosion is heard as the lights flicker]


[the lights stop flickering. The PRINCESSES are all frozen, looking L, as the WIZARD enters C, without the PRINCESSES noticing.]

WIZARD: What are you looking at? [PRINCESSES jump] I'm right here. Now, as I mentioned, you're going to need a lot of help if you're going to get back at those princes. I'm willing to give you that help.

POCAHONTAS: How did YOU know that we're after the princes? Who are you?

WIZARD: Ah! How rude of me not to introduce myself. Good princesses, I am the magnificent [grandly] Wizard of the Wood! And I know EVERYTHING that goes on in this kingdom! Snow White, you have a package awaiting you at home for your mother. [SNOW WHITE gapes at him] Belle, I'd stop leaving your diary where Ariel can find it. [BELLE gasps at him, then looks murderously back at ARIEL] ANYWAY! I have a proposition for you.

RAPUNZEL: [suspiciously] What kind of proposition?

WIZARD: [amiably] All in good time, dear Rapunzel. First, let me give you the tools to take care of the princes. All you have to do is follow a few steps, using a few gifts I have here for you.

Step One!

This tricky little powder is an ace for your sleeve

It has a magic power that you simply won't believe!

Just throw it in the air, and it sucks away the light!

You can go from midday sun to a moonless winter night

Save this coup de grace for the tippity toppity stair

Open the door, throw it up, and princes won't see you there!

Step Two!

This little toy I got from my mom is a very special string

Just throw it toward the prince, and it'll do this special thing

Without a single pause, it will jump from prince to prince

It's simple magic! Just try it out, and you will be convinced.

With the powder and this simple tool, you'll conquer all your foes

Oh! I forgot. To help out in the dark, the magic string, it glows!

Step Three!

Now that you've got the princes tied up, you're very almost through

Once they're under your control, there's one thing you must do

Go to the window, call "WIZARD," and one, two three!

I'll appear, and everything else up to me.

[the lights flicker and go out as the curtains close. CHARMING steps in front of the curtain, a light goes on him.]

CHARMING: Oh, no! The wizard is trying to turn us against each other! I've got to hide before the princesses get here!

[he jumps off the stage, and runs around backstage]


NARRATOR: Yikes. So, looking back, first the Wizard warned the princes that the princesses were coming, but then, he helped the Princesses! Who is this guy working for!

[the lights flash, the WIZARD can be heard shouting]


NARRATOR: [screams shrilly and runs off]

[the curtains open. A woman, the QUEEN, is seated on stage. The WIZARD enters, clearly very happy about the way his plans are going.]

WIZARD: Ohhhh, Your Majesty, everything is going EXACTLY according to plan. I have warned the princes, and given the princesses your tools. They have no idea what we're really up to.

QUEEN: Very good, my son. My spies also tell me that the princes aren't worried at all about the princesses. Ah, here they come to give another report.

[the SMURF(s) enter, whistling. They look worried. They hand her a rolled up note, and then quickly walk out.]

QUEEN: [reading] "The princes are still up in their tower, and the princesses are rapidly approaching. Almost everything is going to plan." [looks up] ALMOST everything? [continues] "Prince Charming, however, cannot be found." [enraged] WHAAAAAAAT? [to WIZARD] YOU DIDN'T TAKE CARE OF CHARMING?! THIS ONE. SIMPLE. TASK. AND YOU COULDN'T TAKE CARE OF IT? THIS COULD RUIN MY ENTIRE PLAN.

WIZARD: [cringing] I thought it was OUR plan, your Majesty.

QUEEN: [livid, and somewhat insane. Going between yelling, taunting, and threatening] Hahahahahahaha! You fool! You are nothing but a player in the game. But I am the master. The ruler! Now, if you don't want me to hang you upside down and set you on fire, you had best finish the plan perfectly!

WIZARD: Oh no! Not again! I'll fix it, your Majesty. [he scurries offstage]

QUEEN: [to herself. Full of malice] I will not let that idiot ruin this plan. Even if I have to carry it out myself.


NARRATOR: Oh no! What does the Queen have in store for the Princes and Princesses? Even I don't know!

[he runs off. The curtains open on the PRINCES, without CHARMING, sitting around. They suspect nothing. A banging is heard offstage; several pairs of feet ascending stairs.]

ERIC: What on Earth is that? It sounds like a bunch of someones coming up the stairs!

PRINCE 1: Maybe it's Charming!

PRINCE 2: Not unless he brought a party with him.

PRINCE 1: I like parties!

ERIC: Quiet, you two! I hear girls' voices....[a thought occurs to him] don't think....

[the PRINCESSES round the corner of the ramp and come up the stairs.]


[ARIEL throws the magic powder into the air, and the lights go almost completely out. The PRINCES start to clamor.]


[CINDERELLA steps forward with the magic rope, and throws it, capturing the PRINCES. The lights come back up.]

SNOW WHITE: And now....

BELLE: For the final step.

POCAHONTAS: Rapunzel, you've been waiting the longest. Do the honors?

TIANA: Ribbit!


RAPUNZEL: Alright. I'll do it. [steps to the window.] Wizard [a whisper]. Wizard. [louder]. WIZARD [a shout].

[the lights begin to flicker]


QUEEN: [laughs evilly from offstage, then enters. The lights return to normal.] Thank you, girls, for following the directions so well.

CINDERELLA: What's going on here?! You're not the wizard!

QUEEN: I couldn't trust that fool to take care of things anymore. And now that you've captured the princes, why don't you all help me finish the job?

[the lights dim as she raises her arms]

Moderari reginae animos.

Eos occidere.

Sic mori. Et regere.

[hold the last note as the lights go all the way down, then back up. The princesses are now under her control. *WRITER'S NOTE: The Latin text means: 'Control the princesses' minds. Make them kill. So they can die. And I will rule all.'*]

Now get rid of them.

[the princesses begin to walk menacingly towards the princes.]

CHARMING / WIZARD: [in unison] NOOO! [they burst from the wings with some sort of weapon each. A blade for CHARMING, and a staff for the WIZARD. CHARMING cuts the rope binding the PRINCES, and the WIZARD turns to face the QUEEN. CHARMING comes to stand beside the WIZARD. They fight for a while. Without the QUEEN focusing on the PRINCESSES, the effects of her magic start to wear off. The PRINCESSES start to snap out of it.

RAPUNZEL: Hmm...what...

SNOW WHITE: I don't....

[they all murmur as the effects wear off, then look around. They and the PRINCES back away to let the fight between the WIZARD and QUEEN take precedence. The three break away from each other, panting,]


[A silence follows her words, but then Rapunzel steps forward.]

RAPUNZEL: No. You aren't.

[the PRINCES and PRINCESSES begin to rally.]

PRINCE 1: You're evil.

SNOW WHITE: And mean.

PRINCE 2: And ugly.

BELLE: And hateful.


PRINCES AND PRINCESSES: You're evil and mean and ugly and hateful and WILL NEVER RULE US.

[they form a mob around here, into which she vanishes. The mob approaches the window, and we hear the QUEEN screaming. The mob breaks apart to reveal that she is no longer there.]

NARRATOR: [from offstage] Is it safe yet? [everyone turns to look as he enters.]

WIZARD: Who are you?

NARRATOR: Why, don't you recognize me? I'm the King! I wanted to thank you for finally getting rid of the Queen.

BEAUTY: Wait. If you're the King, wasn't the Queen your wife?

NARRATOR: Yeah. [they all shiver loudly]

[silence for a few seconds, then:]


Chess Openings and What They Say About the Size of Your Johnson

Chief Grandmaster Correspondent Alex Speed,
Chief 50-50 Record Against Level 1 Computers Correspondent Matt Spradling

If you are a person of culture then you have also binge-watched this new thing on Netflix called The Queen's Gambit. It tells the story of a poor orphan chess genius who is also an alcoholic. Fun!

We've all played chess. We learn it in kindergarten! Is my gifted and talented showing? Of course, then in elementary school you learn that it wasn't "chess" but "confess", and not everyone's preschool is in a catholic church. And not all versions of chess involve a teacher asking you why your pigtails are so long and if you're a dumb little girl as a room full of preteen boys chants "Big Al" as you leave the room in tears pretending you have to use the restroom again. Haha.

So that's what we refer to as the "French Retreat" and you shouldn't worry about it. But here is a list of some chess strategies that you'd do well to take a gander at before the next big club meeting so you can make a friend (or an enemy).

Chess is a complex game that is mostly gate-kept by weird nerds who needs to prove to themselves that they are smart by playing a board game against other people who are just sort of thrashing about the limits of the world hoping their intellectual abilities are recognized by someone other than themselves. My deepest venture into this world was when I both played competitive chess around Austin and was employed as a chess coach for local middle schoolers (do you ever just type a sentence and then realize that your life as a whole doesn't make any sense?) The following is a comprehensive list of the best tips I received and also some that Matt shared with me because he is an intuitive genius.

1. Never make eye contact with your opponent. It is common practice to greet your opponent and shake hands and exchange pleasantries like "good luck to you" or "huff my shorts," you know, classic chess phrases. If you refuse this initial step it will throw off your opponent so much that they will likely resign before the match even starts. This was my strategy when I showed up to my first competitive chess tournament and promptly got the shit beaten out of me by a gangly 13 year old child, but I bet it will be different for you!

2. The Sicilian Defense. Hold on let me look up what that is. The key to this one is to put in your airpods and start talking loudly about how you're gonna play the Sicilian Defense very loudly. Like you know when you're in the airport and there's that guy with the Patagonia bag talking very loudly about how he just made a bunch of money buying Tesla stock? Do exactly that but instead say "I studied the Sicilian Line against a Najdorf Defense then crushed a few Bud Ices so I'm feeling pretty loose" Hey do you guys ever switch tabs and then come back and your google doc has been written on? Pretty spooky, right? That's right, it's another Halloween article nerds!

3. The Witch's Cauldron. This is a scary little decoction I came up with while studying abroad in Sicily (no relation.) Is white kicking your ass with their dumb holy bishops on the diagonal? As black, you may be able to situate all your pawns in a circle with your queen in the center, and from this point on you'll be statistically likely to win, and statistics are everything in witchcraft.

4. Do make some eye contact with your opponent. I know, this contradicts strategy number one, but chess is all about contradictions and being able to adjust on the fly better than the dweeb in front of you. If avoiding their eye doesn't phase them, then once the opening phase is done, stare at them without blinking and don't even look at the board to move.

5. Drink like a ton of water. I mean like gallons and gallons of sweet sweet H2O while your opponent watches. Stare at the board and pound glass after glass and raise your hand to signal to the moderator that you need more of that juice. Instead of leaving to take bathroom breaks just sweat it out and become visibly anguished.

6. The Ruy-Lopez. The Ruy-Lopez is one of the oldest and most classic of all openings. It is named after a Spanish bishop who wrote one of the first books on chess. It is clear wish-fulfillment from a bishop pretending he's a hero because it essentially plays out where black is copying you so you send a bishop out to bully their knight and save the day. Ruy Lopez died a virgin and so can you.


8. Joke about how "this is checkers, right?" Just over and over again. This is to chess players what "well it didn't scan so I guess it's free" is to cashiers. It deals significant psychic damage which most chess players have a vulnerability to, so really spam that attack and they should go down in no time.

9. Claim you're black-white colorblind. If the worst should come to pass and you lose, drop this little diddy and everyone will be impressed that you were even able to keep track of whose pieces were whose and then you'll become famous but ultimately come to realize that you're only famous in like a novelty circus freak way and not because anyone sees any real value in you and when you eventually retire with your meager fortune from media appearances you will be so alone and know that it was all a lie until eventually your dreams become black-white colorblind. You can't take it anymore. That's when you become a bishop.

10. And finally, we can't stress enough that if you are losing just really double down on that whole checkers thing and ask why they never said "King Me"

Office Chart

Spotify Playlist

In My Dreams - Christy Altomare, Anastasia

Some people think "Once Upon a December" is the most iconic song from Anastasia. Some will say it's "Journey to the Past." Both of these people are right. But the most iconic song from Anastasia is also this sleeper hit that's featured in the stage musical, weaving a simple melody around the backstory of Anya, powered by the purity of Altomare's dedication to being That Bitch.  -Andrew

The Last of Us - Gustavo Santaolalla

It's cold in Texas, so it's time to start listening to the soundtrack for The Last of Us on repeat. It's a zombie apocalypse game that starts outside of Austin, so I always think it's appropriate. I'm a sucker for a good guitar track, and I want Joel to be my dad.  -Marina

Freeze Tag (feat. Phoelix) - Dinner Party

A few months ago I heard this song for the first time while laying out in a grassy field in the sun. It had such a boppy groove that I had to dance, but such chill energy that I couldn't bring myself to stand up, so in the end I kind of just booty shaked while laying on the ground. In a nutshell, this song gave me weird grass stains. And I liked it?  -Jenna

Oh GOD - Orla Gartland

I don't really know how to define Orla's music and I don't know what to compare it to. All I know is that I absolutely love her voice and her lyrics and damn this song is catchy as hell.  -Sam

The Purple Worm - Griffin McElroy, The Adventure Zone: The Eleventh Hour

The Adventure Zone is an absolutely incredible D&D podcast that I won't be able to do justice in the office chart. Griffin, besides turning out to be an incredible dungeon master and storyteller in general, also made hours of killer soundtracks. Although it's probably mostly show nostalgia, the music ranges from very sad to very hype, but on the whole is very relaxing. It makes great writing music and has been keeping me calm. On Bandcamp and dubiously on YouTube.  -Matt

Northeast Texas Women - Willis Alan Ramsey

So I wrote a very long article about this album and hopefully you read it. If you didn't, honestly I get it - it was a lot of words. Please just go listen to this song all the way through. I think it is a marvel of what you can do with country music. It's weird and it's dumb and it's fun and I love it.  -Alex

I'm That Bitch - Cast of RuPaul's Drag Race Season 12

Sure, RuPaul is a transphobic fracker. But there are a few iconic moments from this group number that live in my head rent free. "Good morning campers" and "still serving looks while I'm eating these fries" are chief among them. Plus I ended my other song rec with That Bitch and this is the only other song that came into my head afterward.  -Andrew

Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight) - ABBA

Like most Mamma Mia! fans, I listen to a lot of ABBA. I always thought this song was about witches trying to find a man to sacrifice for their eternal youth like in Hocus Pocus, but then my mom told me it's about trying to find a one night stand before the club closes. I like my version better.  -Marina

Skinny Love (Bon Iver cover) - Birdy

I don't know why I love songs that clean out my tear ducts. The scenery during my drive back from Colorado was insanely beautiful, lots of valleys and switchbacks that were blanketed in snow and heavy fog and you know, it just made this song hit different. Anyway, when are we giving prizes for the saddest song submission on the office chart?  -Jenna

Nervous Rex - Laura Stevenson

In 2008 Laura released a song about the 2020 anxious quarantining couple experience. I don't know how she did it but I've decided not to question things anymore. I'm no longer questioning anything anymore, actually. No new information, please. I am all full up!  -Sam

Strange Fruit - Billie Holiday

Everyone could do with some Billie Holiday in their day-to-day. This song in particular is famously incredibly dark, but I suppose it pays to remember that while it's fun to do spooky scary stuff during Halloween season, that's a luxury for people who don't live in constant fear.  -Matt

Source Decay - The Mountain Goats

I know that I have written a review of this before, but I think this is one of the best songs ever written. "I sort through the postcards you continue to send // I miss these torture devices from my old best friend" This line is so good that it haunts me on a daily basis. John Darnelle is a true genius and everyone should listen to this album at least one time.  -Alex


Banner - Stanley Donwood, Jacket art for Humor by Stanley Donwood, 2014

Pumpkin Man - An actual real terrifying police sketch and definitely not a Sam Strohmeyer photoshop

The Office - The Office