Issue 40 - 02/08/21  


  • Perfectionism
  • 5 Hot Trespassing Tips
  • Death to 'Realism'
  • Dancing with Ducks
  • Republican Patriots Defend Freedom On Various Facebook Pages
  • I Go One Week Without a Phone and Now I'm Mary Oliver
  • Book Report: Kings of the Wyld
  • Office Chart


Chief Hips Correspondent Matt Spradling

It's summer 2017 and you're awake seven hours earlier than you'd prefer to go work a morning shift at your local starbucks knockoff fella. Things are going pretty much par for the sweaty course (everything's a disaster but there are free breakfast tacos you have to *dispose of* if they don't sell out) when a rusty, fuck off old minivan gets in line at the drive through. It honks at the car in front of it for taking too long to order, and then promptly gets honked at itself when it doesn't move up after the original honkee has finally moved up. Upon greeting them over the intercom you're met with a silence so pregnant it has you running out for Wendys in the middle of the night muttering sweet nothings under your breath as you maintain your friendly customer service demeanor, and then upon your second attempt at a greeting you are interrupted by words so profoundly incomprehensible you think the van may be chock full of lads from one of those uncontacted rainforest tribes who've gone walkabout to see what all this civilization fuss is about and maybe land a reality tv gig. After utilizing every terrorist negotiation tactic you've written from scrap over the years they do a convoluted honk-laden maneuver to get themselves five feet away from the speaker instead of ten at which point they demand one of basically all the most difficult items to prepare. Over the next two minutes they slowly file up the line like a fuck off big blood clot waiting to spank you down the river styx at the supermarket or someplace equally undignified and all the while you and your fellow bean jockeys are frantically trying to gather the rubble of your once great store into some semblance of an order. Once it is finally time for the interloper to show at the window and present themselves before god and everyone they stop about five feet too far back, foreboding shadows rummaging through a purse. It's fine - there's a fuck off long line running all the way back to the dumpster at the other end of the fuck off big parking lot while a gang of fuck off loud crows scream into your ear for the rest of your life because there's no way to mute the speaker when a car's sat at it. But you can't rush these things. That's simply not what you're paid $10 and a taco an hour for. Once the bus finally creeps up to the infernal station a woman with the thiccest glasses prescription you've ever seen appears and seems to be upset about being alive. They're parked far enough away that normally your waifish 6'4 prowess would be enlisted to bridge the gap but your manager, god bless her, has stepped up to the plate just to try to understand what is going on. After a couple minutes of hanging out of windows to transfer money and feet slipping off brake pedals and adding on yet more items to the order which in drive through law is a major party foul one of the two or three blank-faced pre-teen-looking kids sitting silently in the back of the minivan opens a door and deadass runs way. Goblin mother freaks out and demands your manager give her her cell phone to call the cops with. She then speeds away without half of her order and without returning your manager's cell phone and makes a scene with the police and her runaway in front of the Greek place for a half hour or so which you don't get to watch because you're still stuck pedaling Weird Milk for another two hours before your lunch break of cold beans.

My point is that I like for things to go not that way.

I've always been hesitant to label myself a perfectionist. Is "perfectionist" a specific scientific diagnosis, or just one of those casual categories bandied about, usually as a sort of self-deprecating insult/humblebrag hybrid? Is it really perfectionism when I'm slowly and painfully choosing each word of fiction I write to the point that the spirit of jazz never takes over and gets stories trucking, or am I just a methodical, exacting, and maybe overanxious fence-sitter of a person? I like to keep my home clean, I have a place for every measuring cup and book and remote and mat and why would I put something in the incorrect place when I could just as easily put it in the correct place? Unless I'm very unusually relaxed I run everything I might say through an exhaustive gauntlet of filters and only say it if it passes these rigorous examinations.

But that doesn't mean I'm a perfectionist. I'm just a


I could write a rote article about "perfection bad but also not bad but still kind of oh well time to get famous on Medium" but who gives a shit. Besides Medium. Be wary of that place. Obviously perfection is unattainable and stops you from beginning and finishing things way more than it helps you. I used to think that it wasn't misguided to have perfectionist tendencies, because it's good to have high standards and lofty goals. For instance, when writing papers for school I would just plan everything out in exacting detail beforehand and then write it all in one go without any followup drafts or editing. As a result I got pretty much a perfect score in every writing-based class I took, however another result is that I got swiftly burnt out on school and now it feels like taking classes is akin to trying to lift using a muscle that actually atrophied away and grew thin and ragged with repeated overuse instead of growing stronger. When everything is all or nothing, you might have some impressive everythings at first but it just isn't sustainable and pretty soon you end up with a lot of nothings, spread eagle on your couch covered in oreo crumbs and wracked with vague PTSD responses to the thought of being jolted from the depths of your nothingness back up to the now seemingly impossible heights of everythingness because you genuinely can't comprehend the intermediate steps.

Lately I've been realizing I carry this dumb energy into many other parts of my life, even the fun bits. Each hobby and pastime becomes a fixation and I inevitably go all-in on it instead of just enjoying it casually. Gaming? Gotta find a new game which is immediately perfect and one of my new favorites of all time or it's not a worthwhile experience (uh oh Cyberpunk). Reading? I recently got more into the fantasy genre which means I have a to-read list of a dozen or three of the best books currently available to try to burn through as fast as possible, and while I love collecting books this is a bit of a problem because I'm a remarkably slow reader, so I'll be seeing if I can get through more than four while treating reading as a full-time job before I get stressed out by the weird artificial pressure I heap onto what is for all intents and purposes a private leisure activity.

Most of all I've been dealing with this in exercise. If there's one way in which you will be unable to stop the passage of time from making itself very, very known to you, perhaps it is by way of your body, and more specifically how your body falls apart as you grow older. Now I'm twenty-goddamn-seven, I know there might be 70-year olds reading this thinking cool great nice, but you get no sympathy because you probably hurt your back in the process of ruining the housing market.

At the start of quarantine, before covid killed my job at the time, I naively assumed it would be like a 2-3 month work-from-home-then-back-to-normal thing. I therefore decided it would be a good bit if I grew a beard and got really ripped by the time we came back to the office. It's been almost a year and my beard is about 15% finished, but the ripping went a little better. You know, all-or-nothing and all that. I was working out at home every day, making good progress despite lacking equipment, drawing out routines and schedules, stuffing myself with bulk-friendly foods, the whole nine yards, and (cautiously) going out to run every 4th or 5th day just to get my cardio up a little even though distance running is somewhat detrimental to bulking up. I was a Real Proper Hell Yeah Workout Guy.

After a couple months of this, it became clear that the underlying joke of it all would never come to fruition as my company got killed dead. After another month or so, I began to realize that the occasional days I went out to run were the days I enjoyed most, because it was nice to get outside a little, and also you can only do so much of something on the floor of your dimly lit bedroom before it starts to drive you a little crazy. That realization was the death knell for my sweet rippling muscles - like the heart of Legolas being stolen by the seaside cry of gulls, so was my bulging heart stolen by the prospect of being a Real Proper Hell Yeah Runner Guy.

I gradually ran every three days, then every other day, and my workouts grew more sporadic until they happened once a week if at all. When it's 105 degrees and sunny and humid every single godforsaken day where you live, it's hard to tell if you're really out of shape or if your body is actually doing a good job but just hamstrung by having to swim through a volcano. Usually part of what's fun about running is the gradual improvement, which wasn't really happening for the aforementioned reason, but I kept at it anyway for a nice smattering of reasons: it was the only time I went outside; as much as I'm a cold weather person, getting sun was pleasant; the neighborhood I ran through was pleasant; the subsequent evening feeling of having run was pleasant; and at least trying to get into good running shape was pleasant, even if I might never get back to my pre-surgury levels.

It became something I relied pretty heavily upon for my mental health. Guess what that means! That's right, it's time for the part of the story in which my body betrays me! I suppose I have to take some of the blame - just because I could run endlessly without properly stretching and stuff and avoid injuries when I was 20 doesn't mean that should last forever. But when you suddenly and repeatedly and painfully get stopped from doing the thing you love doing, it's a pretty big bummer, and when it's an internal problem rather than an external one, it's an extra depressing bummer that makes you feel like a broken failure. First it was one knee, then it was the other ankle which had never been a problem before, then it was shin splints, then it was my hip which had definitely never been a problem before, then it was that hip even worse, and pretty soon I was limping outside about once a week to see if I could make it around the block before spinning the wheel of body horror and finding out which part of me was going to be the weakest link that day.

The lesson here, if there is one, is the same boring lesson as always: do what you do with some level of moderation and sustainability, lest you run yourself into the ground either figuratively or very literally. Perhaps it's a question of what your driving motivation is; for me sometimes it's less about Thing, and more about my wanting to be a Person Who Is Great At Thing, and that causes me to miss out on much of the enjoyment Thing has to offer while also setting myself up for failure at Thing regardless, and comes with a free side order of raising further questions about identity of self and self-acceptance and liking Phoebe Bridgers.

However, there is an upside to all this which comes in the most unlikely form imaginable: my big dumb stubborn ass learning a lesson from hardship. Once you've taken an honest look at what your motivations and goals are, and once you squeeze down the big hard-to-swallow pill about accepting your own limitations (which sometimes decrease with age but sometimes drastically increase), there's still enjoyment and fulfillment to be found, scavenged from the wreckage of your unrealistic plans.

I'm not the strongest I've ever been anymore, but it turns out that just doing a light workout once a week is surprisingly sufficient at keeping everything from sliding back to beanpole status.

I may or may not read a record number of books this year, but the more I focus on enjoying my time spent reading rather than making a chore out of it, the more I get out of the experience. When I stop being angry at how webnode changed formatting for no apparent reason and messed up Newsletter's mobile layout, there is no upside about how Newsletter was cooler this way all along or something, but at least I'm not angry.

And it turns out that even though running on pavement does make my legs fall off like swiftly deflating tires without lugnuts, I can still run on grass and have a decent chance of functioning if I'm careful about it. This requires walking ten minutes to and from the nearest grass because I live in a paved wasteland, and doing lengthy stretching and warm-up routines, and cutting it short if there's a problem, and maybe potentially hypothetically going places I'm not supposed to go, but the point is, by way of all these carefully developed coping mechanisms, like a little flower growing out of a crack in the dilapidated hellscape's pavement, I can still run, and [insert tidy concluding thought about how life is imperfect but the indefatigable will of life to adapt and survive was the true perfection all along]

Which brings us to the more important article:

5 Hot Trespassing Tips

Chief Ghost Correspondent Matt Spradling

Now hear me out.

Assuming this is being read aloud in court, I want to be very clear that I am in no way advocating that anybody break any laws or get up to any criminal shenanigans, your honor.

But like

The previous defendant murdered somebody. Isn't temporarily borrowing a bit of private land a pretty victimless problem in comparison? Your hair looks beautiful today by the way, your honor. Do- do you think my hair looks beautiful too?

1: Scope Out Secret Entrances

I know as much as any straight white man can that the world can seem like a brutal, rigid, intimidating, forbidden place. Sometimes, especially during a pandemic, just going outside can make you feel like you're in the wrong somehow, imaginary threatening faces watching you from every window and camera. Everything is off limits and everyone knows what you're doing.

Actually though, if there's anything the last year should have taught us, it's that the world is held together by scotch tape, much of which got too much skin oil on it upon application and is now coming quite loose. Most fences end somewhere or have a hole in them. Many barriers can simply be walked around without a second thought. And in any case you're not going to immediately get arrested for life if you do get caught, some haggard overnight security guard will just ask you to go away so he can go back to reading.

Trespassing through nature is especially good for plausible deniability - does it really make sense in the first place that a field or a copse of trees should be off limits to anyone? Looking at you especially, golf courses. And not to get into specifics, but if there was hypothetically a university-run square mile complex of mostly grass fields for things like hypothetically intramural sports which used to be wide open but got fenced and gated off in the last couple of years, all in the middle of your neighborhood, well, that would be a pretty big place to keep locked completely down. In fact, there may be a corner, perhaps the southeast corner, that's actually completely open.

You never know what you'll find when you add a little mettle to your hiking.

2: Stick to the Shadows

So a hypothetical corner like that would probably have a couple ways of being approached. One would probably be pretty conspicuous, like traipsing along the full length of the fenceline in full view of anyone who may or may not want you to arrive at the corner your trajectory is aimed for. But another may be from the far side entirely, through a black trail behind some houses, down over a little sewer bridge thing where the creek runs through, and up and out of the treeline in as subtle a way as possible. Hypothetically.

You may not be hidden once you arrive, but might as well work with what's there. Such a way would present more obstacles too - I recommend bringing a dim light, being strong enough to climb a bit, and not being afraid of wading through very low flash flood waters in the dark for starters.

Once you've arrived, there are further opportunities to lower your visibility and stick to the shadows, as it were. Dim security lights on? Shape your running path to skirt around the brightest edges of the lights. Creepily foggy? Go nuts but still stay a decent ways back from the gatehouse and try not to get scared when you hear dogs running around that you can't see. Ghosts aren't real. Embrace the darkness. Become the monster. The gangly, misunderstood but still bizarre and frightening monster.

Oh, and if you're worried about leaving tracks, especially on dirt or grass after a rain, only run back and forth in a straight single file line to hide your numbers.

3: Become the Shadow

Dressing appropriately is important. You might expect this tip to be about ninja regalia and getting as dark as possible, but the goal is to blend in and maintain plausible deniability, so while you probably don't want to wear white or some neon color, you also don't want to wear black if you're going to be walking around in the street at night because that's just a dumb thing to do. In fact, I would generally recommend some sort of wearable light so you don't get smooshed, just turn it off once you get to your destination so you're not a conspicuous shooting star out there in the dark. Plus if there's someone hanging around near your entrance you can say "Bravo Six going dark" as you turn it off and that will probably leave them pretty confused.

Another plus here is headphones. You don't even have to listen to anything, but it's easier to play up the confused lost person act if you feign bewilderment and take out headphones when approached. Any retail worker will tell you that people wearing airpods are far too powerful and can essentially go wherever and do whatever they want and the rest of us are left only able to hope their purposes aren't malicious. Which brings us to:

4: Act Like You Belong

This applies to trespassing both in nature and... not-nature. If you look like you belong, maybe look a little bored, and have a prop like a drink or a bag of food or a box to deliver, people will just leave you alone. A long time ago I worked as a food delivery driver and had a lot of orders for people working overnight at hospitals. Hospitals have a weirdly high amount of security in some places and a weirdly low amount of security in others. Depending on the entrance I needed to take, I might have had to stop by a security checkpoint and show ID and get a nametag and all that, or I might have been able to just wander in and get on the employee freight elevator and go wherever. And once you're in you're in - I never intentionally fucked around on the clock but I did definitely get lost a lot because how could you not. Several times the delivery address had a specific room on it so I would go into rooms in the middle of the night where a sleepy confused sick person would just kind of stare at me wondering if I was the angel of death and why the angel of death was dressed as a sandwich boy until I left and then the doctor who ordered would just randomly find me somewhere in the hall like nothing about the situation was weird.


One time when I was out running a four-wheeler, presumably operated by employees, started driving out towards me. For a relaxation technique, exercising puts me in, not a mean mood, but a somewhat aggressive one, so without thinking about it much I just kept running towards it until it stopped, shining its lights on me, and after I flashed a peace sign and continued on my way it just sat there for a bit before turning around. So who knows what that was about. Also, specifically if your trespassing is for running purposes - what are they going to do, chase someone who is actively practicing to be extra good at running? Now that I think about it, playing tag where one team is on foot and one team is on a bike or ATV would be a pretty good time. But this brings us to our final point:

5: Don't Get Attached

In your travels of dubious legality, you may cross paths with some fellow vagabonds. They should, for the most part, be politely ignored. This is grim and potentially dangerous business, and forming attachments may only come back to haunt you.

Imagine, if you will: you're out for a sneaky run. You get to the secret tree-covered entrance and turn your light off. The field is unlit and silent as you enter and commence with your dark ambulatory deeds. At some point another party emerges onto the scene: a trio of students kicking a soccer ball around. They're right next to the path you're plodding and you were there first so you don't alter your course, passing near to them out of the fog. They say hi. You say hi back. This is the first mistake. It starts with hi. Then you kick their ball back to them when it glides astray. Pretty soon they've invited you to play. You've exchanged names. In the silence punctuated only by the rhythmic thumping of the ball back and forth, you develop a feel for how each of them plays; how each of them thinks; how each of them moves. And they for you. You feel accepted. At home. None of you should be here but you're here together. You love them. They love you. Eventually this dreamlike respite must come to an end. You speak some inadequately simple parting words and make your exit, climbing back down into the darkness and out again into society. You turn your light back on, headphones in, grey shirt reasonably visible between sparse streetlights. You're just a legal jogger. Before you make it one block away, a police car pulls up, spotlight gliding back and forth out the window. She asks if you've been on the [redacted] fields. The what? You ask, pulling a headphone out. Those fields through there, she indicates. Oh, no, you say, those are closed in the evening, right? You're just jogging in the street of course. You have a light on, after all; a poor trespasser you'd make. It was reported that someone came through here, she counters; have you seen anyone else? She's growing suspicious and looking aggressive. You think about your new family. Their faces. Their laughs. Their smells. You force back tears in the dark, hoping the light is too dim for them to see, as you say yes, three people, and indicate the way you came from. She still doesn't seem to trust you, but she thanks you, takes your name and number and moves on up the street. It was you or them, and now you're free to escape as quick as you can through the dark maze of residential roads. It was you or them. The next day you receive a phone call. The city's new anti-trespassing taskforce has been trying to drum up publicity and is making a meal out of this sordid ordeal. Apparently your newfound soulmates were serial offenders, and they want to publicly reward and recognize you for your help in bringing them to justice. Outside the courthouse, the balloons soar, the birds sing, and people cheer as you accept a comically oversized check for $500, a bountiful reward for your helpful information. You smile and wave, a model citizen. On the lyft ride home you don't respond to your driver's attempts at small talk. He looks in the mirror and sees you quietly sobbing. It was me or them, you say. After a moment of contemplation he nods, passing you a pack of tissues. The interstate traffic outside churns in a river of exhaust beneath hazy gray skies, obscuring reflections in the sides of slowly passing glass towers. The lights are off when you arrive home.

Death to 'Realism'

Chief Serotonin Correspondent Marina Martinez

I don't know what reality you may have been living in for the past several years, but the one I've been inhabiting took a pretty dark turn about 5 years ago. (Okay, it's been a lot longer than that, but for the sake of my sanity, I'm just talking about the elephant in the room - the horse in the hospital, if you will.) The term 'doomscrolling' entered the popular lexicon, a term which technically means 'scrolling through social media, taking in greater amounts of indescribable horror the further you go', an activity to which I have been referring to more simply as 'checking the news in the morning'. It's been a rough one, folks, and I honestly don't believe we'd still be here without coping mechanisms.

For as long as I can remember, my preferred method of escapism has been stories. This world? Pretty shitty, not gonna lie to you. Literally any other world? Yeah, okay, now we're talking. Books, songs, shows, movies, and games can be set LITERALLY ANYWHERE! Do you realize how cool that is? You can set them in a galaxy far, far away, in a hole in the ground, in a time far in the future where everything is good now, or even in a world that looks a lot like ours except everyone has dragons and nobody is mean. And those are just four very obviously awesome examples out of an infinite number of possibilities!

So lately, while I'm stuck in this world that seems to be getting worse by the hour, I have developed something akin to a compulsion to seek out new Happy Places. I have a running list on my phone of go-to stories to read for instant serotonin and I have dozens of playlists downloaded to put me in literally any mood, but video games and tv, my preferred forms of media, have been letting me down lately.

There are, in fact, happy games out there - I've written about them (way too much but nobody has stopped me yet!) in this very newsletter. There are games where you can live on a magic farm or date a bunch of hot dads or live on an island with talking animals and refuse to pay your landlord with zero consequences - utopias, one and all. And there are some (not many, but a few) funny and/or well-written tv shows that aren't problematic, and if they make you cry it's in a good way! But the big, popular games and shows that I'd looked forward to recently...they don't give me the happy ending I need.

"Life doesn't always have a happy ending!" the studio execs tell me as I cyber-bully them, "We want our story to reflect that. We love that you've connected with our characters and the adventure they've been through, but we really wanted to kill off that one character in particular not only for the shock value, but because how else are we going to show that Shit Happens if we DON'T kill off our Diversity Character? How will you know that life is messy and chaotic and anything can happen at any time if we DON'T show you that ultimately, your choices don't matter and there was never any hope for you after all?"

All I'm saying is that those writers are damn lucky that I'm too lazy to track them down.

If there's one thing I've learned in my 27 years on Earth (plus however many I spent elsewhere), it's that life is messy and chaotic, and shit does happen. The bad stuff can seem tragic or ironic or random - life is anything but fair, and it happens to everyone equally (i.e. having to backtrack on the sidewalk when you realized you were going the wrong way, finding $20 but then somebody seeing you so you have to turn it in, acne, dick pics, a baby choosing to smile at you and then screaming, etc.) I know that, you know that, we all know that. But Good things happen also! The universe balances itself out! Which is why when everyone dies at the end and all their struggles turned out to be fruitless and the bad guys win and the screen cuts to black I become absolutely livid. You can make LITERALLY ANY ENDING in this fictional world? And you're STILL choosing to mirror reality? What the actual fuck, my good gentlepeople?

You don't have to kill off anybody! Or, if you feel the need, why not let the stable, cishet white guy die for once? And then bring him back, because magic! Everybody lives, and they were all mostly gay and magical the whole time! If you made them suffer and make sacrifices, why not let them pay off in the end? Wouldn't it be nice for all the characters to make it to the end, have grown closer as friends, and live happily ever after in a world they helped make better?

I don't expect to have a happy ending to my own life. I don't know how, when, or where my story will end, but it'll probably be anticlimactic and thematically disappointing. Little character development, choppy overall arc, ultimately forgettable - I hate to be a pessimist, but that's the reality for most of us. So why, if given the chance to be a god in a sandbox of your making, would you do that to someone? If you're creating a game from scratch, let the player have a little magic in their lives. I'd LOVE to turn on God Mode irl, but sadly, that doesn't unlock until you make at least $1M annually. Let my characters live happily ever after, please, so I know what it's like. We need something to hope for, not your gritty, edgy plot twists. Every day for the last year has had at least five plot twists. I would literally kill for a predictable plot.

I didn't plan an ending for this. I just wanted to get angry about how sick I am of shitty writing in popular media. If any companies are looking for writers, I am here and I will give the gays everything they want and my stories will be predictable as heck. I will give you Hallmark, but good.

Dancing with Ducks

Chief Quacks Cowwespondent Andrew Piotrowski

My roommate's cat doesn't like me, and I've been thinking too much about it lately.

A bit of backstory: my current roommate and I have been living together for about two and a half years now. We met on Bumble and after deciding we weren't soulmates, we discovered that we were both looking for a new living situation. Bing bang boom, we got an apartment with all utilities included near where I was about to start working.

He also informed me at the beginning of this process that he owned a single cat, a match made in heaven for my zero pets and high tolerance for pet dander. The cat? Her name is Duck.

Duck and I have a relationship that I would call complicated at best, and strained at worst. Every time I attempt to interact with her, I am swiftly rebuffed in some way. The most I can hope for is that my friendly pets will be met by sullen silence. If her mood is worse, she may tolerate the pets for a moment before standing and finding another spot for her repose. And if her distemper becomes severe enough, she will simply hide from me if she catches even a whiff of cat-related enthusiasm on my part.

I would humbly consider myself a friend of animals. I'm by no means Francis of Assisi, but I've found myself over the years easily waxing amicable with all manner of household pets. Unfortunately, whatever charm I have seems to fail when faced with the stoic ball of black fur which frequently pisses in a small box in my hall closet.

While I know up to this point, I've made it sound like my relationship with Duck has no redeeming facets, there is...something.

Like many animals, Duck likes to eat food sometimes. She has two small ceramic bowls located in the corner of our, for lack of a better word, dining room.

It's not that the existence of the room is disputed; the issue is that it was clearly intended as a dining room but we mainly use it as storage and occasional extra room for parties or if we need somewhere to put the air mattress when we have a guest. Never once has this room been eaten in, unless you count Duck. And if you've gotten this far, you know I cannot help but count Duck. Desperately.

Anyway, two bowls. Duck has them. One usually contains food, the other usually contains water. The "usually" is where I come in. One of the very few occurrences where Duck will deign to acknowledge my existence is when any bowl in her dining room is empty or approaching empty. Though I'm sure she's not picky about who delivers her refills, her call often reaches my ears before it reaches her father's. This can be explained by two things.

  1. Her father is both a dedicated sleeper and a frequent wearer of headphones, and
  2. I am trying to impress her more than he is.

Given both of these facts, I end up feeding and watering Duck a few times a week. One might think this would endear me to her over time, but one would be wrong. If her opinion of me has shifted since we began cohabitating, it would require whatever the emotional equivalent to a very small ruler would be called.

There is, however, a moment that happens between us. It comes about like this.

Duck begins complaining because her bowls are rather less full than she would like. First, she'll complain directly by the bowls. Then, if nothing comes of this, she'll complain in the hallway. If her cries are still for naught, she will find whoever is home and willing to pay attention to her. Whether this means staring through my bedroom door or playing claw-game with the underside of the closed bathroom door depends on circumstances. At some point during this process, I will relent and come to her rescue.

Upon detecting the auspicious arrival of Food Giver, Duck will truly earn her namesake: her meow more closely resembles a quack, and the prospect of food makes her quack more than a cewamic shop in a Cawifownia eawthquake. I retrieve the food bowl (and the water bowl if necessary. This parenthetical is going to be longer than I was planning at the beginning of this sentence because an important note: I know her well enough that I can tell from her meow whether she's just hungry or also thirsty; and yet this article is still true) and fill them as necessary. I place the bowl(s) back where they belong, and then, the moment.

I don't know if this is a common behavior, but it makes sense as a survival thing: Duck doesn't like to eat alone. She mainly displays this when I'm the one feeding her, but other times when her food bowl is adequately full she'll still quack at me until I join her in her dining room. At this juncture, she will not only let me pet her without complaint, she will also do something that I have never been able to evoke in any other situation.

She purrs. She purrs while I pet her.

I'll sit next to her until she's done eating and just pet her, or mill about on my phone but still watch her back, and then, when she's finished her meal, she and I go our separate ways as if nothing had happened.

The moment, at first, delighted me. I thought we had finally bonded the first few times it happened. But soon enough, it seemed like it was just going to be a hollow thing. Disappointing, like cold tea.

I'm a lifelong Texan, so understand I'm not talking about iced tea. Iced tea is delicious. Sweet tea, milk tea, boba tea, all chilled tea options that are excellent in different ways. That's not what I mean. I mean a cup of hot tea that has slipped into an uncomfortable temperature. And I mean, sometimes my room is cold enough that a cup of tea bows to entropy and reaches a temperature that I would consider drinkable for iced tea. But it's not what I wanted. It's a conclusion that would be acceptable if it was intentional but instead it's just a cold shadow of my own inadequacy. I let the tea get cold. I let Duck succeed in her operant conditioning. Cold tea.

But we still had the moment.

Republican Patriots Defend Freedom On Various Facebook Pages

Chief Idols Correspondent Alex Speed

Wow what a time it's been, huh gang? Everything is definitely good and fun and not still a dumpster fire. The start of the new year immediately reset all of the problems we saw in 2020. There famously is no more racism, pandemic, abusive parents, or weird political extremism. Hell yeah!

That being said I think a few people didn't get the memo and have taken to God's Favorite Battleground to defend their truth. As someone who grew up a Christian Republican I can absolutely stand by the fact that if Christ were back on Earth he would be on Facebook right now making absolutely primo pro-God memes like this one:

How else will God's Warriors(™) end abortion and the gay agenda? Thanks to the Plandemic we can no longer pay tens of thousands of dollars to send our kids to take pictures with orphans in Haiti. We ALSO can no longer fly anywhere because our collective husband Kyle is being attacked for defending our freedom at the capitol.

Luckily when the world closes one door, God opens another! This door is called Facebook and what a world lies beyond that door! Here are some of our absolute best warriors defending the world against the evil liberal plot of equality and universal healthcare (insert that emoji that looks like it's throwing up)

Example one:

I have chosen to hide this Warrior's identity to protect her from Biden's evil demon army that patrols the internet for Truth. This brave soul saw a piece of abhorrent evil and CALLED IT OUT. The first lady was trying to reunite young children separated form their families at the border?! Doesn't she know that only the Trump family is allowed to participate in nepotism because they are God's chosen angels? How dare the woman married to the fake leader of the country try and help immigrant families? If they wanted help maybe they should have been born white. No way they are wasting OUR tax dollars on reunification when we could use that money to build bombs or construct a golden idol to Donald J Trump.

Example Two:

This particular patriot is FED UP with all the LIES from LIBERALS. Our brother Jim was so full of righteous anger that his keyboard couldn't keep up with the perfect logical arguments his big brain was cooking up. He starts off by saying "She" could go to hell. While we are unsure which She Jim is referring to, we can bet he is right because he is a man and undoubtedly She is a woman. You can tell he is employing a very clever juxtaposition of saying he hates stupidity while making several pretty severe grammatical errors. This is on purpose and while we might not totally understand what it means, I'm sure we can all agree Jim is right.

Example Three:

Now this example really irks me.

Some liberal scumbag - and possible bisexual - named Alex Speed tried to raise some sort of point that we won't even justify with an explanation. Luckily our patriot Scott had the perfect quip to shut this damn liberal up! He knew not to engage with any of the logic Alex was trying to fight on and instead chose to make a joke about how he couldn't bother to argue with him because he is a part of the super cool internet group The Red Pill. You know! The men's rights movement that has direct ties to white supremacist groups. We love that shit!

Hey guys. Real Alex here, not republican Alex. I am so fucking tired of this shit. I watched an hour of Fox News the other day because I wanted to try and understand both sides of what is going on and I don't think my blood pressure will ever fully recover.

No real point to make here just taking bids on if anyone wants to go ahead and run me over with their car.

I Go One Week Without a Phone and Now I'm Mary Oliver

Chief Sensory Correspondent Jenna Hay

Friends welcome me home, for I've been on a journey. It may come to pass that you no longer recognize me or, perhaps, feel that I am foreign in some way.

Hear me; my words flow unhurriedly, not as they once did. My outbursts of laughter, forced and volatile, have mellowed into knowing chuckles, deep-bellied and warm.

See me; my disposition is steady as a current, and my countenance calm as an eddy. My veins have become soft and my blood tranquil as it flows its cyclical course. Gravity gently pulls at my shoulders, and I breathe and surrender the space.

Taste me; sweetness has been lost but, in its place, a beloved bitterness has developed, the kind that teaches one to appreciate the burn and grimace that pairs so nicely with truth.

Take in my scent; the musk of petrichor lingers on my person, as though a tempest overtook me, and soaked through my brittle being.

Feel my spirit; my intent is true and my discernment dagger sharp. I bear no burden in how I present myself. I lay my faults between us with space for yours as well.

Perceive me; my hands lay idle, my neck straight, my spine unbowed, my focus candid.

My journey began with the loss of something precious, an event that thrust me toward perils I had never imagined. Hours sacrificed to roaming roads I could not navigate, well laid plans forgotten, discussions of mighty potential faded to nil.

Despite these crimes against my patience, I sing now my adoration of this newfound foreignness, this blissful state of emptyhandedness.

My journey ended abruptly. I woke to find myself bankrupt in a Best Buy, shackled to a new device as it beckoned me back to blindness. Welcome me home friends, but do not let me stay too long, for it is bliss I must cling to, and not this infernal phone.

Book Report: Kings of the Wyld

Chief Grade School Correspondent Matt Spradling

First 50 pages free to preview 

This was one of the first books I picked up in my recent reading frenzy, and it's a great kickstart if you find yourself looking to get your reading habit back up to speed.

It's an easygoing pageturner, easily digestible, and pretty much pure entertainment. Eames' prose isn't the most skillful or flashy, but it feels fitting for the story which is tidy and satisfying, which I'll take any day over an artfully made road leading off a cliff like The Kingkiller Chronicle. Kings is so tight, in fact, that even though I'm a slow reader and generally prefer books to be a little shorter than they are, I think it would have benefited from having an extra chapter or two at the start and the end. The quest gets underway a little too easily (Clay, a retired warrior with a family, joins his old friend on a suicide mission to rescue the friend's daughter, and not much fuss is made about how Clay's wife and young daughter probably won't be so well off without Clay in a relatively dangerous world, which felt unrealistic and not starting on the right foot), although the story picks up speed consistently enough to make up for it; and then, no spoilers, but at the end of the story once the quest is resolved, there's only a few pages left after the climax to hang out in the post-quest world and wrap up loose ends and generally bask in the completed story, which is a pet peeve of mine.

On the whole, and maybe partly due to these pacing issues, Kings is one of those books that feels like it has blockbuster movie sensibilities; the story is clear, the world is fun, the characters are solid without there being much subtle work going on that wouldn't translate off the page well, and the emotions run high - there are a few quite touching moments, but for the most part it's a comedy, and probably the funniest non-Terry Pratchett book I've read. Not all of the jokes land, and it feels especially unusual that much of the joking comes directly from the omniscient narrator which should probably have been done a little more sparingly, but it's never bad enough to elicit groans, and is often pretty good.

Why is it that a narrator making jokes feels wrong and humor arising from the characters feels right? Does it feel like cheating? Terry Pratchett is pretty much universally regarded as a master and his writing is so chock full of humor that reading too much at once makes me feel like I'm going into a sugar coma. But there's a subtle difference in there somewhere - I think Pratchett's humor, from what I've read, remains wholly original throughout and makes use of the pieces that are on the board of his world, if that makes sense, whereas sometimes in Kings the narrator will react to a shocking event with "So that was weird." or will suddenly just say what's about to happen next for subversive shock value, and that works the first time or two but was slightly overused and kind of brought me out of the world, reminding me I'm just reading what some guy wrote in his basement. Not to retread the rabbit hole of authorial intent and wanting to be lied to, but I think it's fair to say that escapism is a valid goal nowhere if not the fantasy genre.

I've read that much of the inspiration for the story came from the author's love of 70's music, to which subtle references are littered throughout, and I probably only caught about 10% of them, but it didn't feel like a problem. The concept of famous "bands" of warriors touring throughout the world monster hunting and seeking glory works out surprisingly well, and this story will be especially good if you enjoy adventures featuring a group of friends relying on teamwork. In fact, now that I think about it, the whole thing does feel somewhat like a dungeons and dragons game: sort of like if a five-player group had a legendary campaign in their 20's, then put it aside, then eventually got back together to dust off their old characters in their 40's but were still really good at roleplaying and storytelling. Since it is a story focusing on a group of washed up middle-aged men, it doesn't exactly pass the bechdel test with flying colors but the women in the story are written fine from what I remember off the top of my head.

So yeah. It's fun. If you're in the mood for a fun, sleek journey with themes of friendship and that doesn't necessarily have a ton going on beneath the hood (there's enough grimdark out there, right?) but still sticks the landing in pretty much every department, this should be a great read. Because of the summer adventure movie vibes I mentioned, I think one of its strengths is probably how widely accessible it is, so give the preview a spin if you're curious even if you're not typically into fantasy or don't enjoy the slow pace of the genre's classics. Also, the sequel is already out and by all accounts just as good, so there's more to burn through if you do enjoy it.

Glory Box - Portishead

The 90's weren't a particularly sexy era of music but Portishead fucks.   -Matt

Living (feat. Alex Clare) - Bakermat

I've kind of taken a break from listening to music recently in favor of just thinking, and I was curious to see what music genre I'd be drawn to when my hiatus ended. Turns out it's feel good techno, like what this guy from Amsterdam produces.  -Jenna

Edge of Midnight - Miley Cyrus, feat. Stevie Nicks

Boyfriend got me hooked on this song. God knows I love a good remix with a classic song. This is a remix of a song off of Miley's newest album, with some added flair from "Edge of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks. If you needed some 80s bisexual rock vibe with a modern twist, look no further.  -Andrew

Black Wave - The Shins

I'm not a huuuge Shins fan but it seems like half of all living bands produced their masterpiece in 2007 and this album is no exception. This song in particular is so dark and spooky and dreamy and paralyzing it's almost hard to endure which is a wild thing to say about such a smooth little finger-picking acoustic melody. I can go years without listening and then as soon as this album starts some tiny dormant dark corner of my brain goes 'ooo I can't wait for him to say This goose is cooked / These tongues are tied.'  -Matt

Freakin' Out On the Interstate - Briston Maroney

Uh oh, it's sad girl hours!  -Marina

Other Worlds - Really Slow Motion, Instrumental Core

The world is a better place now that I'm aware of the "Dungeons and Dragons Background Music" playlist on Spotify. I'm planning a DnD campaign and this song felt like an excellent beginning of adventure tune, or maybe "strutting confidently into battle" theme. Before you ask, yes, I do pump myself up to this in the shower before going to work.  -Jenna

The Gold - Manchester Orchestra, Phoebe Bridgers

After Phoebe created a small explosion while laughing on SNL this weekend I put her discography on shuffle and found this. While I have nothing but disdain for the city of Manchester I suppose this is fine.  -Matt

You Can Have Him Jolene - Chapel Hart

It's not often I get to bring something niche to the Office Chart, so I'm happy that I stumbled upon Chapel Hart while reading angry comments from white people on a post by the CMT Facebook page. Chapel Hart is a country trio of gorgeous black women who sing with an old school country edge akin to Reba with the fabulous harmonies one might expect from a more prolific trio like the Pistol Annies. They remind me of if Tank and the Bangas found a steel guitar and just went fuckin' feral with it.  -Andrew

Never Fade Away (SAMURAI Cover) - P.T. Adamczyk, Olga Jankowska

Sometimes you play a video game where an asshole version of Keanu Reeves lives in your head and you have a few months to live and you have to do what it takes to survive and Dead Rockstar Keanu is a real jerk at first but then you get to know your sentient brain tumor and find out that he's a millennial anarchist who made good music and 'we're not so different, you and I' and then the video game DOESN'T LET YOU ROMANCE HIM even though by the end of the game you've shared the most profound bond possible between two souls. Also the music is really good.  -Marina

Sober to Death - Car Seat Headrest

Last night I thought I was having a cute little heart attack so I laid on the couch with a fuck off big gatorade and watched this and it helped. I'm sure this has already been added at least twice but it's also maybe the best song of all time so it goes where it wants.  -Matt


Banner - Cate Wurst for "There Must Be More Than Blood" by Car Seat Headrest

Smart meme but Obi-Wan - a Sam Strohmeyer photoshop original

Alex's Facebook Odyssey - I know who stole my face

But I don't know who will replace it

Now I'm still alive, but I got no perspective

When the album is over

I will go to bed sober

I've got plenty of love, but nothing to show for it

In my wildest sexual dreams I dream

That I'm watching porn, but there's too much sunlight

Shining on my laptop monitor

So I can't see anything with any amount of clarity