Issue 5 - 01/07/19


  • Phantom
  • Alex Reviews: All 24 Versions of "Life is a Highway" Currently Available on Spotify
  • Sam Reviews: Heart Surgery
  • Matt Reviews: Red Bud Isle
  • Poem: "you shot me"
  • Cool & Good Hot Takes
  • Horoscopes: Romance
  • Office Chart

Phantom: The FIFAffaire de Cœur

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

I play a lot of FIFA, which, for those of you who  don't know, is the soccer video game, and for those of you who do know, I'm not proud. I'm not a serious player. I'm not even a particularly good one. It's mainly just a relaxing time-waster while listening to podcasts if you also happen to enjoy soccer, tactics, routine dopamine hits, bright colors, and occasional nightmarish animation bugs.

Every year when a new FIFA is released, nothing of actual significance changes but everything appears slightly different, especially player animations, celebrations, crowd behavior, that sort of thing. In 15 Anfield's grass was inexplicably yellow. In 16 the face models made players look more like troll dolls than people. 17 I must've only played drunk because I have no memories of it. In 18 when you scored in certain places the crowd did this ridiculous thing in which they ostensibly were so excited they'd leap from their seats and press down towards the field in celebration, but the animation was so indescribably bad and jarring that it genuinely made me want to score less. I wonder if something similar happens in real life sometimes. 

19, however, seemed to finally be a decent finished product that, if not particularly polished, at least apparently received some sort of quality assurance check. As time passed, however, I began to pick up on a distressing trend.

The celebrations are dumb. What's more, I've never really figured out which button combo does the least-dumb celebrations, so I'm frequently surprised by new dumb celebrations. That's why, much of the time, I attempt to bypass the unsettling solo celebrations and aim my victorious reveler towards the stands, where he should in theory be embraced by a riotous horde of fans, limbs akimbo, no room for dabbing or thumb-biting or other sins.

And that is indeed what happens, except something is wrong. There is no kicking off, there is no climax, there is no excelcis deo; at the point of contact, the scorer is suddenly locked into an embrace with a supporter, a man with long red hair, holding each other's head, forehead to forehead, nose to nose, soul to soul. Around them is chaos, but within the frame is a serene bubble of solace and silent passion.

This is odd. 

Odder still is that this tryst occurs not in isolation, not sporadically, but every single time. It might be forgivable if it was a haunting yet dismissable freak occurrence, but it's actually become difficult to avoid.

Something was clearly not right, and I needed to know more and also shift into past tense to heighten tension. 

Such google searches as:

  • Fifa 19 celebration crowd 
  • Fifa 19 celebration crowd ginger
  • Fifa 19 celebration crowd ginger embrace
  • Fifa 19 celebration crowd ginger lover 
  • Fifa 19 celebration crowd ginger gentle lover embrace why am i sad 
  • Fifa 19 celebration crowd ginger gentle lover embrace why am i sad but also happy 
returned no relevant results. What's more, no image or video of this celebration appeared to exist anywhere online. 

I then attempted to find the developer, team, or anyone involved in the sisyphean task of creating these celebrations (which - at least with a boulder and a hill it feels like honest work; imagine being a first-generation college student from a family of immigrants, landing a competitive coding job, and then at christmas your eager-to-dote grandparents ask you about your work and you don't know what to say because yesterday you spent ten hours getting Antoine fucking Griezmann to do that obscene little cowboy jig.) I guess I thought that if I could find the source, it would perhaps be possible to find their livejournal or something and link them to an elucidating backstory of past heartbreaks, secret and passionate affairs, or tragic loss.

After extensive (by Newsletter team standards) searching, I was unable to find any record at all of the men and women who worked to create the game. No credits, no team leads, no trace. I ask: is it more likely that my five-minute investigation was simply unsuccessful, or is it more likely that something deeper and darker is at play? 

Theory: the FIFA franchise is no longer controlled by humans but is a growing, evolving, self-governing entity, symbiotically joined with EA for the respective purposes of guaranteed continued existence and reliable financial gain, or perhaps via blackmail. 

Implication: the animated models within FIFA are at least semi-sentient, laying dormant until I summon them, putting on their performance before vanishing back into the dark privacy of their ball-pit of binary. 

Let's assume this is true, which seems reasonable. 

So many unanswered - and perhaps unanswerable - questions still remain. Are these digital refugees sentient? Have other - or perhaps all - EA titles become entwined in this same fate? Is the lover a single entity which appears frequently, or the vessel, the avatar, in which all entities must clothe themselves in order to commune with other entities at this particular break in the game's code? Why that guy and not someone less conspicuous? Do they wish to be discovered, silently crying out from within their undeserved and unending purgatory in which they are made to fight and dance and sell themselves, resisting as best they can - with love? 

Alex Reviews: All 24 Versions of "Life is a Highway" Currently Available on Spotify

Provost-level contributor Alex Speed

These are all real-life songs available for listening on a playlist I made.

Life is a Highway - Rascal Flatts: This is the OG song that asks the questions we all have wondered privately. Is life a highway? Am I gonna ride it? If so, for how long? Will Someone be going my way? Good stuff. Great stuff.

Life is a Highway - From "Cars" Soundtrack - Rascal Flatts: Yeah this is the same song, but like the cover on this version is pretty cool. That red car - Lightning McQueen. Pretty cool, pretty cool.

Life is a Highway - Tom Cochrane: Supposedly this is the original and the Rascal Flatts version is a cover? Even if that's true (and I'm not convinced it is) this "Tom Cochrane" character should surrender to the voice of the people. The cheering thunderous voice of the masses begging for more Rascal Flatts.

Life is a Highway - Remastered Version - Rascal Flatts: You know how people make sequels and there's not even any story it's just very obviously some executive trying to make a money grab?

Life is a Highway - Home Free: I think I, like most good Americans, try to forget there was a weird craze for a cappella groups somewhere in the early/mid 2010's. This version is the example of why we should all choose to forget this unfortunate time.

Life is a Highway - Chris LeDoux: Hey look I get that this was like a funny bit, but do I really have to listen to all of these? This is just the same song but it feels like it was made by some random republican in his garage with too much access to MIDI instruments.

Life is a Highway - The Madhatters: Okay remember what I said about the whole a capella thing? This one is worse and kind of makes me think that maybe we shouldn't try to forget it happened, you know, like wars and stuff.

Life is a Highway - Kidz Bop Kids: I dunno, generally I think children singing is really creepy but for some reason it's kinda working for me here.

Life is a Highway (Explicit) - DJ Crazy J Rodriguez: It seems like this would be a weird country rap version but it is just the exact same as number 1.

Life is a Highway - Six: You guys know how I feel about a capella groups, right? The further down this list we get the worse these versions get. It's astounding. What sort of horrible things did I do in a past life that have led to me writing reviews of different version of Life is a Highway? Whatever I did, this is too severe a punishment.

Life is a Highway - Juice Music: I've noticed that people take a lot of pride in the little yell thing at the beginning of the song. This song has the most intense "wwhhooooo-yyeeaahh."

Life is a Highway (Crossfit Workout Mix) - CrossFit Junkies:

Life is a Highway - Andrew Butcher: This guy seems like he's trying his best, and I admire that.

Life is a Highway - Pickin' On Series: Oh shit, this is pretty cool. Nice bluegrass vibe is much less abrasive than people doing different shades of "Ye-haws."

Life is a Highway - Lost In Time: They somehow made it sound like this version was recorded in my Oklahoma cousin's basement somewhere in the back half of 1986. First version with female lead vocals though, pretty cool.

Life is a Highway - The Nashville Riders: This version's vocals sound like someone is being shown a video of their deepest fears whilst he sings a cover of a song he neither likes nor dislikes. 6 potential hostage situations/10.

Life is a Highway - The New Country All-Stars: I'm gonna level with you guys, I think this group was lying about their name.

Life is a Highway - The Superstarz Kidz: The person singing this is very clearly in at least his thirties? I don't really hear any children on the track despite the album cover being a trio of Bratz dolls.

Life is a Highway - Wild Stylerz: This is the worst one. Beware.

Life is a Highway - Looking for Treble: Oh for fuck's sake.

Life is a Highway - Luke Marsden: This version sounds like I am the only person in the vast variability of the internet to ever hear this random guy play a song into his laptop. I guess there's a weird sort of hope in that. The idea of putting out a creative endeavor that one day has the ability to be heard by people you didn't anticipate. But also, this guy shouldn't be releasing music.

Life is a Highway - Dynamite: "Hey Dale, do you and the boys want to take our hogs down to my buddy's shed? He just bought a keyboard and a laptop with GarageBand."

Life is Like a Highway - Rebound: This is not Life is a Highway, just an impostor.

Life is a Highway (Cars) - 8-Bit Misfits: Another really cool song. Some sort of like 8-bit techno instrumental that reminds you the melody and everything is pretty catchy. No mentions of highways though. 8 state troopers pulling me over for using my laptop while driving/10.

Sam Reviews: Heart Surgery

Seneschal-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer

If you read the last edition of A Newsletter you will know Matt recently had heart surgery to correct a condition that was causing his heart to beat rapidly and irregularly when he did strenuous activities such as running or bending down to tie his shoes or sleeping. I'm extremely grateful that the surgery was able to completely fix his heart but I thought I would make a list of some pros and cons to consider if your boyfriend is planning on having a heart procedure.

Pro: They will glue a cool heart monitor to his chest to make sure they diagnose him correctly in preparation for the procedure.

Con: The glue smells exactly like those glue traps you bought in 2015 to catch some critters and every time you catch a whiff you feel guilty all over again.

Pro: The nurses are really friendly and attentive.

Con: They are also young and beautiful and dig around your boyfriend's "Jesus-only zones" quite a lot.

Pro: You get to stay with him all night and be there for him if he needs you.

Con: Trying to get sleep in a hospital is a fool's errand for both of you and you'll leave the hospital looking like you watched too many horror movies at a sleepover even though your friend's mom specifically forbade it and now you have to explain to your parents why you can't function.

Pro: You get to spend quality time with your boyfriend's parents. 

Con: There isn't a con to this one. We got dinner at a bar and it was great. Wish you could have been there, Matt! I think you were busy or something.

Pro: Everyone will mention how young and healthy your boyfriend is. 

Con: There will be constant reminders of your young and healthy boyfriend's mortality. Love it!

Pro: Your boyfriend's heartbeat becomes regular and normal.

Con: He can't accept that his heartbeat is normal because he is so used to it being irregular. He asks you a lot of questions about this. It is cute and also sad.

Pro: Your boyfriend will be able to exercise again after the surgery.

Con: You can't outrun him like you could when he had a bum heart. It's not great for the self-esteem.

So I give boyfriend heart surgery an oh-my-god-I-am-so-relieved-and-grateful-he-is-better out of 10. Highly recommend for all boyfriends.

Matt Reviews: Red Bud Isle

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

I'm more of a cat person than a dog person, which is to say that I'm outdoorsy in theory, but almost always have more reasons to stay inside where it's clean and cool and the bathrooms don't feel like it'd be more sanitary to not wash your hands. But it's still good to get out and be Rough Boys periodically, so today I joined Provost-level contributor Alex Speed and Gibson (Rough Boy/Best Boy) for a hike at Red Bud Isle dog park. 

When we got there, the parking lot for this 13 acre park held only about 25 cars, was at capacity, and there was a line of cars waiting an indeterminate period hoping to park.

Matt Reviews: Pease District Park

This is the long thin bit that runs along Shoal Creek from 24th St to 15th St. To get there from the aforementioned Red Bud Isle, you sometimes drive aimlessly through Tarrytown which is pretty Twilight-Zone-esque and where drivers seem to value adrenaline much more than the per capita average.

This park has a street you can actually park along. The ability to not be trapped on a road should you wish to stop being on it? You miss it when it's not there. 

You know what can get pretty unsettling? Big open spaces. You're all exposed to strangers and falcons and kids in the treeline with airsoft sniper rifles. Not great for your lizard brain. This park though? None of that nonsense, or what fields it does have are both manageable and optional. 

You will frequently meet exotic creatures such as a French bulldog that will flop submissively onto its back as soon as you approach it and also the tiniest damn bird I've ever seen. It flitted (flote?) around on the tree over us looking all cute and then I swear just stood upside down on the underside of a branch like a bug.

Sometimes the path is insurmountably fenced off for what appears to be a seemingly minor obstacle of about 20 square feet of mud, and you must either precariously stone-hop along the river under the bridge or, because sometimes Best Boys are scared of water, climb up and cross a highway, which is not technically nature. 

Sometimes your view will consist of even parts nature, suburbs, and downtown, which makes you feel like you're living in an illustration from your 2nd grade science textbook which I think may actually be ideal. Don't skimp on those water cycle diagrams.

Speaking of which, the water is at times inexplicably bright neon green. Despite this, such lifeforms as turtles and college fisherman persist. There are also lots of cyclists on the sidewalk, so you will be routinely dinged at so you can make way, but you don't know how bikes work and are pretty sure they don't all come with bells so you kind of end up glancing over your shoulder the entire time lest you become one more of cruel mother nature's victims but not in a badass way. 

Everyone in west campus is more athletic than you are. Even the dogs. Maybe even the raccoons. 

I'm pretty sure we witnessed a haggard father tell his young daughter to wait on a park bench and then slump away into the sunset.

You'll probably only pass 2-4 scooters the entire time which makes for a nice respite from the increasingly dystopian rest of greater Austin 10/10

Poem: "you shot me"

Seneschal-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer // Magnet // 2018

Cool & Good Hot Takes

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets was basically a British school shooting.

"Separating the wheat from the chavs" would've been a decent wordplay for like an anti-Thatcher burn or something. But it's kind of aggressive all around. Sort of a scorched-earther. And also not that decent.

Pronunciation Guide: As Newsletter has never, I don't think, contained any real news, it's less of a news letter and more of a news letter, you know how in Game-of-Thrones-y times swords were named cool things like Bloodletter, so like that but with news, which I guess actually still requires some news to be involved in the process, but you can see the progress. 

Real doggy style is when you do it with unconditional love.

Horoscopes: Romance

Seneschal-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer

I got a lot of flack for the 2019 Horoscopes I wrote last week. Do y'all not understand how this works? I just report what I see in the stars! Take it up with them.

AQUARIUS - Aquarius, love will not be in the air for you this month. Look to the sea instead. Grab a big ol fish and smooch it on its big ol fishy lips.

PISCES - That crush of yours is about to get serious, Pisces. Start saving for your dream wedding ASAP! Consider hiring me to officiate. My hourly rate is $400.00 plus tax and I WILL hit on your weird uncle. For an extra $20.00 I'll sing the national anthem to every single one of your guests, individually.

ARIES - Now is not the time to get serious, Aries. Say no to commitment and yes to living your #bestlife! Stay #single or you will #suffer #unimaginable #consequences.

TAURUS - Taurus, you can't keep doing this. You're never going to make it work with Chad unless you confront your issues with intimacy. Do you want to end up like Aunt Ginger, alone, except for that taxidermy turtle she calls her "special friend"? I don't think so.

GEMINI - I know you've been burned before, Gemini, but true love is real. Didn't you ever see Beastmaster (1982)? Well, basically, this baby gets born from a cow because an evil priest wants to kill him because of the prophecy so the kid grows up in this village and then when he's an adult the village is attacked and he's the only survivor so he starts a quest for vengeance and he discovers that he can control animals... You get it.

CANCER - Oh Cancer, you have to stop falling in love with the first person who pays attention to you. You dated that guy who panhandles near your house for like three months. Get some help.

LEO - Love is just around the corner for you, Leo! Well, it's like three corners from now. Take a left at the old oak tree and a right at the mailbox shaped like a chicken. You can't miss it!

VIRGO - Virgo, you look for love in all the wrong places. Have you considered dating outside of your friend group? Outside of your country? Outside of your planet? Get a satellite and let those sexy extraterrestrials know you are #readytomingle!

LIBRA - You might not believe in Love, Libra, but it believes in you! And you terrify it. You scare it so bad. You haunt its nightmares and ruin its dreams. While you exist it will know no peace.

SCORPIO - Don't be shy when it comes to romance, Scorpio. Take a fun and flirty pic, download Tinder, throw your phone at a tree and begin the search for your TRUE soulmate, Bigfoot. That sneaky bastard is out there and you're gonna marry it and have weird little babies. Good luck!   

SAGITTARIUS - Sag, love is the bug on the shoe for you. Light the milkshake and you can see the words about them and taste the sun. It's okay to fight the ocean but it is never okay to give up! Draw the graph already!

Office Chart

Mark Pritchard, Thom Yorke - Beautiful People

The National - Sea of Love

Conor Oberst - Eagle on a Pole

Kero Kero Bonito - Trampoline

Damien Rice - The Professor & La Fille Danse

Speedy Ortiz - Raising the Skate

Daughters - Ocean Song

Radiohead - Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief