Issue 6 - 01/14/19


  • Jock Jams: Hope and Memory
  • Austin Cuisine 
  • Fuck It
  • Help Us Name Our New Cat
  • A Magic Trick
  • Horoscopes: Work
  • Office Chart
  • A Comprehensive List of Things I Enjoyed About Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Jock Jams: Hope and Memory

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

Listen to this song while you read this. YouTube link. Spotify link. Whatever's easiest. It's very important. Ideally, please just listen to this on repeat any time you read the newsletter, but it is also specifically relevant at this point in time.

When I was a kid, like 6-12 or so, my church hosted an Upward Basketball league. It deserves an entire article to itself, but this story concerns only one piece of that star-spangled puzzle: the run-out.

The run-out was fucking wild. In this saturday morning league, crammed into a small, two-half-court church gym that smelled like rubber and decades-old coffee and elderly relatives gathered to watch variously athletic kids thrash about, the introductions were the main event. The four teams playing in the same time slot were fetched and led into the prep room, silent in the dark like paratroopers anxiously awaiting the green light over Normandy. Through the door ahead, we'd see the lights outside go down, sending the butterflies in our gatorade-roiled stomachs into a fevered frenzy.

Then that fucking song starts blasting and you feel what it is to be alive, the flesh's fear, the visions of glory, the righteous bloodlust.

An anonymous door-warden starts going HAM on a smoke machine, obscuring the court ahead and filling the prep room with the scent of fire and mayhem. In the booth one room over, the announcer, the arbiter of our minute lives for the foreseeable future, begins his Delphic tirade which inevitably and irresistibly culminates in the calling of names. Foot by foot the line moves forward, one by one you receive the divine call to step forth, stand up and be counted amongst your peers. As the line turns the final corner, you see the doorway flashing and yawning, your friends being swept beyond, until you are three away, two away, and then you feel the desperate lack of separation between you and open space, the rush of air as your name is called but it doesn't sound like your name, it sounds like someone else who was once you but no longer exists, and you are moving despite yourself, doing the unthinkable because there is simply no alternative, your feeble body forfeit to the sound and the fury.

A fact: It's hard to see with a spotlight on you. The brilliant, strobing light falling through its color spectrum contrasted with the utter darkness. Even if it's not shining straight into your eyes, the swimming shadows and dancing edges spilling around you make it difficult to parse your surroundings. The messages your eyes send to your brain become less Edward Hopper and more Jackson Pollock.

Another fact: If your team was playing on the right-hand court, the run-out was very brief, because the benches were directly ahead. You'd kind of go past into the middle because it's hard to make a show of running ten feet. A low-risk/low-reward ordeal. Alternatively, if your team was playing on the left-hand court, your run-out was considerably more involved. This maneuver required you to emerge, find your bearings mid-stride, discern the place in the center of the court where there was a surprisingly small break in between the benches consisting of folding chairs, thread that needle, and then find an apt place to stick the landing. Let's call it high-risk/high-reward, or at least more so than the alternative. Actually, I'm not sure what the reward is in that formula, but the risk should be increasingly clear.

A final fact: Occasionally, some coaches would have cups of coffee waiting for them on their chair at the end of their bench.

Now, dear reader, kindly take these disparate facts, place them in an uncovered pot with two cups of water not quite boiling, stir until mixed, and let sit for a minute before consuming. Careful: contents may be impossible to live down.

I don't actually have too much memory of The Fall, and what remains is likely imagined in retrospect rather than genuine, like a mugging victim struggling to describe their assailant through hazy barriers of shock and adrenaline. I remember the coffee did spill on me, adding insult more so than any scalding injury, don't worry. I don't remember the immediate reaction of the room. Did I simply dip under the spotlight, there one moment and gone the next from the crowd's perspective? Or did the spotlight stay fixed to me, the crowd clearly able to watch a lanky kid just fucking eating it? Did the kids keep coming after, jumping over my bent body to avoid causing a sticky pile-up, or did the announcer fall into a stunned silence, nothing moving, just Jock Jams blasting into a still, dark gym, not quite concealing the sound of sobbing?

I remember I couldn't play at first, and I remember the hallway outside where we examined the welt on my shin that I think is still probably the worst knock I've ever had. I remember the polite applause as I eventually returned to the court mid-game. I had a job to do, after all. I remember the benches were spread much farther apart from that day on, perhaps my only lasting legacy.

To this day, I can't help but get hyped when that song comes on. But then, 20 seconds in, when the perennial and inevitable question is asked, I solemnly lower my gaze.

I wasn't ready for this.

Austin Cuisine Review

Provost-level contributor Alex Speed


As I'm sure you're aware, Austin, Texas has a wealth of exciting food offerings. We were recently named the 2nd most exciting food city in the country (fuck you, Los Angeles). As a native Austinite (no I'm not) I feel qualified (again, I'm really not qualified I eat mainly just eggs and sweet potatoes in a bowl drowned in hot sauce) to give you the hot scoop (it's a food pun, you philistine) on all things Austin. So without further ado: 

Alex's Weekly Restaurant Roundup: That KFC on Lamar and Koenig

You know the one. It's in front of the Goodwill that shares a wall with Half Price Books. It's got that sweet-spot aura of open-most-of-the-time-and-pretty-cheap-so-you-might-as-well-I-guess. Inside it boasts like two trash cans and lots of posters for those bowls that cost way less than any food of positive nutritional value should. 

I chose this KFC as the first installment of Alex's Weekly Restaurant Roundup because I think it exemplifies what Austin really is: a place to drunkenly order fried chicken because in the moment it seems like a great idea, but then a few hours later you realize you've given up more than you bargained for and that ultimately the Colonel always gets what he wants.

Also one time I came here when I was having a bad day and the cashier gave me a free cookie. Pretty cool.

This is the spot for you if you're:

  1. A real human being who can't afford the other places around town that charge $15 for a chicken biscuit.
  2. Someone who has come to terms with the fact that having a few extra pounds around really truly doesn't matter and sometimes it's nice to just pull up to a window and quickly receive sustenance.
  3. I dunno, from Kentucky?

That's it for this week's Roundup. Be sure to send in suggestions for next week's review, and if you visit this KFC, say hi to Jorge, he's a good dude.

Fuck It

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

I've been listening a lot to a band called Car Seat Headrest because Alex made me until Stockholm syndrome set in. One of their songs is called "Fill in the Blank." You can watch it here. It's great, there's a synth solo and a maraca and everything.

It's more or less about depression, but unless you paid attention to the lyrics or were familiar with the band, that might not be particularly apparent. It's pretty upbeat - it's actually its album's opener - and sounds more motivational and energizing than anything else.

For the first ⅔ of the song, the chorus is this: You have no right to be depressed, you haven't tried hard enough to like it / Haven't seen enough of this world yet, but it hurts / Well, stop your whining, try again, no one wants to cause you pain / They're just trying to let some air in, but you hold your breath

But then for the last go-around, it changes to this: I've got a right to be depressed, I've given every inch I have to fight it / I have seen too much of this world, yes, and it hurts / I will never see the light that I've seen shining in your eyes / You just want to see me naked, so I hold my breath

In this song, and probably in most songs similar to this, the first parts of the song feel like they're about what's being struggled with and what feels insurmountable, and then the climax of the song is the realization or the overcoming of said hurdle or celebratory or whatever. But here, the journey of the lyrics start at "Just keep going even when you're down and you'll find happiness" and end up at "Fuck it, that doesn't work, I'm depressed." Most of us probably interpret that as a descending path rather than the ascending path that it sounds like.

Thing is - have you ever been depressed? Of course you have, even dogs get depressed and they're the best of us. Maybe some people embrace it pretty quickly, and maybe some people just try to muscle through it forever. And maybe a lot of people get through it that way. But something really insidious that seems unique to things like depression and anxiety is that they're vague, gradual, and different for everyone. When you have a fever, you get concrete evidence confirming what you're feeling. Depression? Not so much. It's not on/off, it's more, everyone has bad feelings so these are normal; I have these specific problems that I'm having trouble with, so they're the source; I must not be living healthily enough and that's why I'm out of it; I'm not trying enough things and that's why I'm not looking forward to anything, etc. And those are all true. Etc. And etc. the next day. And etc. the next day. And they're still all true. And etc. the next day.

You know how headphones get tangled in pockets? It's not one single thing - they start in a nice loop, and then get bent this way, but the loop is still clear, and then gets bent under that way, and the loop is inverted, and then gets pulled out this way, and you can still trace the steps back to an untangled state but it's no longer visible, and then it keeps going. Each of the steps are very simple, but the result is a tangle you don't know where to start with. There's a breaking point at which you give up trying to unspool it like normal and start the autopsy to work the knot out.

Is there some sort of honor in not quitting your untangling process, trying to muscle through it, especially in that stoic masculine kind of way? Sure. I think the intentions are good. It's a fighting spirit. Maybe it's natural. Maybe it's faith. Or maybe it's just a fear of vulnerability. But, if at the end of the day it's about problem solving, trying to walk through a wall rather than changing course and finding a door is not admirable, it's rolling a natural 1 on an intelligence check. It's ok, it happens.

I don't mean to get all chicken soup for the teen soul. Point is, it's about understanding the reality of the situation, which I guess is to say honesty. And yeah, if we jump to "depression¯\_(ツ)_/¯" at the drop of a hat without trying to fix it, then maybe that's premature and an excuse and avoidance. I don't think most people do that, but I think a lot of people are scared of being perceived (or perceiving themselves) as doing that. And that keeps us from the crucial pivot yet another day.

But when we finally sit and take an honest inventory, maybe fueled by a rare dash of self-assurance, and realize we have done our damnedest and that dog just don't hunt, that's not giving up; it's going to sleep after a 16-hour shift, it's pulling over to stretch because your legs are numb, it's calling a painting finished because it has to be finished at some point and frankly it looks pretty good. It's an enormous and rejuvenating relief, and one you've come by honestly. It feels a lot like that Car Seat Headrest song.

Help Us Name Our New Cat

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

I guess you could not name it. But that's just a passive way of naming it because that's how butch men end up calling her Cat and how I end up calling her The Nameless One which I doubt Sam considers to be just super tenable.

Pickles - Honestly probably the best name here. Not necessarily feminine.

Truck - My first choice. Clearly great. Could put a sign on the litterbox that says Truckstop. Femininity be damned.

Catherine the Great - Plain Cat pun. Not my best work. Russians are scary though. Cats are scary. Synergy.

Gerble - Naming a cat after a pigeon from our previous residence might be a weird energy but it's Sam's brand of absurd.

Sheepcat - Why do dogs get a monopoly on this ancient and revered profession?

Babadook - Actually kind of cute if you don't look at it directly. Will hunt pests not through melee but via psychological torture and preying on mental fragility.

Crow - The cat we're looking at is mostly black, and crows are pretty great. Plus naming animals the wrong animal is sometimes cute.

Puppy - Hmm.

Turtle - I'll stop now.

The Defenestration of Prague - Andrew suggested this and I do like it. Could shorten it to Deffy. I'm sure vets either enjoy or despise this kind of thing and I don't need that kind of social uncertainty while running errands.

Spicy Sauce - Andrew also recommended this in honor of Kismet Cafe. Don't necessarily recommend Kismet. Also not particularly well-suited for a name in any regard. Is good though.

Jacob Slaght - More ceremonial than practical.

Gutwound - A more brutalist approach.

Barbra Streisand - Also a brutalist approach in a different way.

Starscream - Get fucked.

Scare-Bear - Seen Annihilation?

Pawvacado - Not my best work.

Cannibal - Keeps strays away.

Mother Suspiriorum - Keeps strays away.

Clavicle Pam - It's late.

Bunny - Sam's recommendation, and reviewing this list in the pale light of morning has left me with an any-port-in-the-storm feeling, so Bunny it probably shall be.

But lest we forget;

A Magic Trick

Ascendant-level contributor Matt Spradling

This is a sick magic trick that Sam showed me. It's great. Memorize it and show your friends. I haven't really worked it all out and I'm still not completely clear about what happened or what the short or long term consequences are, but there are some things we're not meant to know.

  1. Hold your hands out in front of you, palms flat and facing each other about 8 inches apart.
  2. Slowly bend your index fingers towards each other, keeping the rest of your hands still. 
  3. Bring the index fingers gently together, then curl the left one all the way down.
  4. Now slowly bend your pinkies towards each other, keeping the other three fingers straight. Sam says it's normal for it to start hurting at this point but power through as best you can. 
  5. Upon contact, curl the right pinkie all the way down.
  6. So, you should have been standing this whole time. Yeah, I got punished for it too. Ouch! Anyway, stand on your right leg, trying to touch your left foot to your butt. Don't change your hands. 
  7. Do the best one-legged squat you can, and then return to standing.
  8. Repeat this but on the left leg. 
  9. Your eyes should have been closed this whole time. I got punished again for it too. Uh-oh!
  10. Now, quietly but still definitely audibly, list out as many secrets as you can think of. They can be yours or anyone else's. The darker, the better!
  11. Now stay silent for five full minutes, and don't think the wrong thoughts or you'll get punished. Man!
  12. During this time, something important will have happened. I'm still not sure what. I'm not sure in what area or at what time it will take place. I guess we just have to keep trying every day. 

Horoscopes: Work

Seneschal-level contributor Sam Strohmeyer

CAPRICORN - Well this is awkward, huh? It's not that you're boring and forgettable, Capricorn. It's just that you aren't very exciting and I forgot you. Maybe just make sure your boss remembers you exist I guess.

ARIES - It's time to ask your boss for that big promotion, Aries. They aren't going to give it to you because you set that copier on fire last week but you should ask anyway because their face will get red and they'll throw a stapler at you and you can sue them, making more money than you would have from the promotion.

TAURUS - Have you considered a career change, Taurus? When I ask the planets what you should apply for they just keep telling me "COWBOY-BOY." Is it a boy that... herds cowboys? IDK, they said you would know what it means and then they winked at me.

GEMINI - Gemini, that big project is going to really jump-start the next phase of your career. DO NOT let that happen. The company you work for is not at all what it seems and you need to get out as soon as possible. Pack up the van and leave with the kids in the middle of the night. I know a guy who can get you and Maureen new passports. The guy is me and my prices are reasonable.

CANCER - Try getting more creative in the workplace, Cancer. Get a succulent for your desk, add a cute cat pic to your email signature, and tell Veronica you're gonna make her teeth into a modern art piece if she doesn't stop chewing her gum so goddamn loud. 

LEO - Feeling burned out with your 9 to 5, Leo? Oh, remember that show on Animal Planet, K-9 to 5?! I think it was about dogs with jobs? Not like office jobs, you silly goose! It was more like drug-sniffing dogs and herding dogs, stuff like that. But I would definitely watch a remake of The Office with dogs. Anyway, capitalism is a prison from which we have no hope of escape.

VIRGO - Don't be so hard on yourself when it comes to your career, Virgo. Your great step-uncle Reginald is going to die any day now and he's leaving you everything because of that time you told him his hair was "cool." What I'm saying is money isn't going to be an issue for you much longer.

LIBRA - Libra, head on over to the water cooler and have a nice chat with your co-workers. Ask about their day and show them pictures of your kids. Heck, tell them about what the manager called you in for last week and about the document you saw open on their monitor. Be an open book and make friends!

SCORPIO - Alright Scorpio, you conniving creep. I told Libra to spill their guts so head on over to the water cooler and get the dirt. I do you this favor not out of respect or kindness but out of malice. Someday I will call on you to fulfill your end of the bargain and you will be forced to answer, for I am not a patient woman, Scorpio, and I do not forgive.

SAGITTARIUS - The early bird gets a pet on the bottom, Sagittarius. Go back there and tell them how the cart falls before they run over. It's okay, the ducks bite the ring but he never touches the man!

Office Chart

Cursive - Caveman

Mitski - Townie

Arctic Monkeys - Cornerstone

Grimes - Flesh without Blood

Father John Misty - Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings

Massive Attack, Hope Sandoval - The Spoils

Let's Eat Grandma - Hot Pink

Natalia Lafourcade, Los Macorinos - Hoy Mi Día Uno