(NEWSLETTER ARCHIVE - FEB 8, 2021)
We've fired the old staff and hired a brand new one.
That's right. You spoke. We listened. We've tossed out the old format like the dumpster fire it was to bring you more of the personalities you've come to love, hate, and hate to love.
More Charlotte, you said. Introducing Charlotte's Corner, a segment dedicated to whatever the eff our resident bad girl wants to talk about. She might run interviews or bitch sessions, and if you don't like it, probably keep it to yourself.
More December, you said. Introducing Delta by December, a segment in which our favorite hacker/genius/witchlord talks about what's new in science and tech, and if applicable, how that relates to magic-y stuff. But don't worry, we asked her to stick to stuff people will actually care about. (No promises).
More Magnus, you said. Introducing Triple-M (Magnus Monthly Mocktail), a segment in which America's favorite white witch guides you through the making of a clean, refreshing, toxin-free beverage. Be warned: Magnus's recipes can be sinfully addictive.
More Archimedes, you said. Actually, no one said that, but we wanted to him to feel included, so Archie will be writing a segment called My Mom Thinks I'm Cool: Defensive Moves for a Bully Magnet. We'll see if it sticks. (Personally, I think he's going to have a short run).
We'll occasionally hear from our small army of field correspondents, Emo Everett, Wren Solari, Jordan Lyons (R.I.P.), and many others. So, if you've got someone that you want to hear from, just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know. We'll make sure they get some page time.
And if this doesn't make you happy, then I'm going to sell my computer and move to a monastery in Tibet.
~ Christian Andreo, Editor-in-Chief, Reading by the C
by Charlotte Solvnik
What's up, Losers. I didn't want to do this stupid segment, but I kind of didn't have a choice. What's the lesson here? Read your contract. Anyway.
Today's guest is Beau Barber. He's done all kinds of stuff. He was a guitarist for early 2000s punk band, The Code. He's currently one of two dynamic hosts on the increasingly popular podcast, Two Tunes Podcast. Hang on, let me switch on my mic.
Charlotte: What's up, Beau. Thanks for being here.
Beau: What am I doing here, exactly?
Charlotte: Why don't you tell the people how you got into music?
Beau: I feel weird. I don't get interviewed.
Charlotte: Just answer the question, man. We've all got shit to do.
Beau: Um, so, my Aunt Peggy, when I was very young she was going to college for music education. Me and my cousins were guinea pigs for her as an educator, and I remember she brought an autoharp to my grandmother's house and was like, let's write songs.
Charlotte: Were your songs any good?
Beau: I mentioned I was kid, right?
Charlotte: But your first album was with the band... wait... Poan Liar? I'm sorry. Poan Liar? Is there a story there?
Beau: Sadly, no.
Charlotte: What was up with Poan Liar?
Beau: This was after my first year at Kent State with some guys from back home. I did it for about a year, and we wrote all these songs that we never recorded that were much better than anything we actually recorded.
Charlotte: You wrote the greatest song in the world, but you forgot it?
Beau: Yeah, all we have is a tribute.
Charlotte: Nicely done. So, The Code was next?
Beau: My buddy, Jay, that I learned guitars with in high school, he had started a band in Pittsburgh called The Code. And they were on tour with Antiflag and Strike Anywhere, which in the world of punk are big names. So, one of the guitarists from The Code bailed, and I was like, I have to get out of this town, my life sucks. Which it didn't. And I'm like, I'm going to talk to Jay. And Jay said, are you sure? Do you know what you're signing up for?
Charlotte: Life in a van.
Beau: Life in a van.
Charlotte: And what was the craziest thing you've ever done on tour?
Beau: I never really did any crazy things, and even the guys that did, those aren't really my stories. You know what I did? I slept in the back of the van. A lot. I'm not that guy who needs to be in the action.
Charlotte: No one told me I was going to have to carry this whole interview.
Beau: I'm antisocial.
Charlotte: I have on my notecards to ask about Battlestar Galactica. That should make the nerds happy. Talk about that.
Beau: Well, my daughter's named Caprica.
Charlotte: What a nerd. Also, awwwww! That's actually the cutest. Not even ironically. I'm sorry I said the nerd thing.
Beau: It's cool. I dove into Battlestar in the college years when I was like, I gotta' watch a TV show, 'cause I didn't do it when I was younger. Ron Moore, creator of the show, would talk about how he worked on Next Gen and ran Deep Space Nine, and Battlestar is more of his reaction to Star Trek. How the Enterprise always reset itself, and they would formulaically make up technology by episode to move the story forward. And unless there was a two-parter, there's no repercussions from episode to episode. When he did Battlestar, he was like, no, no, no. What you do in the first episode affects you in the very last episode. Like, the ship is falling apart at the end 'cause of all this stuff that happened. It's not like, oh, the ship's fixed, we've got a replicator. We don't have any problems in the Alpha quadrant.
Charlotte: Okay, we're done with that topic. How did Two Tunes podcast start?
Beau: I wanted to start a podcast, kind of because of Kevin Smith. He was like, anyone can start a podcast. All you need is a topic and a title. I started that when I was in Pittsburgh, and it was really fun, just talking to your friends and recording. I did, like, 30-some episodes with my buddy, Jay, and then stopped when I moved. Then my colleague and I, Brandon Bitner -
Charlotte: Brandon's the other co-host of Two Tunes.
Beau: Yeah, and we have similar interests. Both music educators now, both like pop-punk from the early 2000s. Actually, we both like everything, all kinds of music. Really dig jazz, and music theory. And for each episode, we each bring an awesome tune that the other person has probably never heard, and hopefully neither has the audience. And we talk about it. We talk about the theory and the production.
Charlotte: How it was recorded.
Beau: Right. And talk about anything relevant like who the artists and performers are on the tunes and stuff about them.
Charlotte: It's actually really interesting stuff. I was hooked after the Kurt Elling episode.
Beau: You've listened!
Charlotte: Calm down. I can like music. So, like, other than having fun, why are you doing it?
Beau: We want to build this community of people to talk about music, like you would talk to your friends about an awesome album.
Charlotte: I don't have friends.
Beau: Rrrrright. So, that's kind of it. We've been recording since October, and we're getting a great response. Did I mention there's a Discord server?
Charlotte: Oh, so you're legit?
Beau: You know, I didn't have to do this. I have a family I could be spending time with.
Charlotte: One last question. You're moving to the mountains to be a hermit, and you're taking one album, one book, and one article of clothing. What do you take?
Beau: Album? Uh, Dark Side of the Moon. It’s become one of my favorite albums of all time. And then, I also would maybe take Downward Spiral.
Charlotte: Don't get greedy. One book?
Beau: House of Leaves.
Charlotte: God, I knew you were going to say that. Instrument.
Charlotte: Of course. One piece of clothing.
Beau: Just a shirt? Maybe underwear.
Charlotte: For God’s sake, put some effort into it. You wouldn’t like, watch survival shows and stuff, and learn about the most functional clothing possible, like parachute pants?
Beau: Yeah, it would probably be pants. Not jeans though.
Charlotte: What do you have against jeans? You know what, I don't care. Hey, I know I've been swinging the hard questions at you, Beau, but you've been a real sport.
Beau: I'm sorry, what are you planning to do with this article again?
Charlotte: That's all the time we have people. Two Tunes podcast, wherever you get your podcasts. Don't be a dick; leave a review. Next month, I'm told we're going to have an international origami star, crochet puppet guru, and sexy librarian. All the same guy. Also a guitarist.
Beau: Why do I get the feeling you're not from Guitar Magazine?
Charlotte: You already signed the release, buddy. See you guys next time. Probably. I'm not done trying to get out of this gig.
Delta by December
by December Bowen
Good morning/noon/night, and thank you for your interest in the sciences. Today we're going to cover a topic so heady, it will need to be brief. Can't have heads exploding, now can we?
Not long ago, I became interested in machine learning. The brand engines of the world have decided to call this 'artificial intelligence', but every engineer worth a damn will laugh in your face. The human race is far, far from creating artificial intelligence, that is a construct capable of self-awareness, creative purpose, and empathy. (An Indian Witchlord in the House of Namsami created an astral artificial intelligence before British Imperialism struck, and it was called Preeta. Apparently, Douglas Adams should have been taken more seriously, because Preeta promptly found life pointless and threw itself into an inflaton rip in space-time. There’s also the notion that the Light and Dark powers are somehow constructs, but that is another article entirely.) For the purpose of this article, I will not pander to capitalism or lazy marketing. We will reference machine learning.
Ah, yes. I became interested in machine learning as data was published showing that trained machines can now recognize the subjects in a blurred image with more accuracy than humans. I began to research the architecture of a learning machine.
Without getting far too technical, there is a process by which binary neurons (that’s little bits in a computer program) are connected to and influence other neurons around them. While one neuron alone means nothing, a group of neurons can begin to affect the signals moving through the cluster. Through hundreds of thousands of rapid tests and failures and seemingly random back-propegations, those neurons begin to shift their values and weights so that a particular stimulus to the cluster outputs something ‘correct’. Feed it a million pictures of an ice cream cone, slap its wrist whenever it is wrong, and eventually it can recognize the ice cream cone in any novel picture.
This tells us something about the way our own neurons work. Of course, we have far more complex neurons than weighted bits. We have neurochemicals and receptors of different flavors that all impact the strength and type of firing that happens at the business end. But theoretically, this idea that neurons function based on a trained interference pattern is the same for mortal or machine. Provide stimulus from a new ‘sense’ with feedback on the correctness of the response, and the neurons will begin to organize an interference pattern that reflects a desired outcome.
As a terribly oversimplified example, if we placed a radio transmitter and receiver in a subject’s brain, never mind the power source for now, and we provided the subject some kind of feedback to tell him/her/it that the feelings experienced during a transmission were consistent with the truth or not, the subject would eventually be able to interpret those radio signals correctly and would in effect have a new sense.
This, I suspect, is exactly what has happened to witches. With our early sensitivities to small fluctuations of the electromagnetic spectrum and the dimensional spectrum, we have activated new senses. New senses have allowed us to test the results of activity - spells, for instance - for which mortals have no empirical point of observation. Evolve this throughout generations, and witchcraft is the obvious derivative.
Short of placing an RF device in my brain, I feel I may be able to test this theory by creating clearer feedback loops for any new sensitivity. It also gives me great appreciation of the need to fail during practice.
In summation, machines have a long way to go before they will ever match contextual wits with a sentient being. But there is much to be learned of ourselves in their study and development. Perhaps someday, I will be able to create a magical artificial intelligence to augment my capabilities... though I don’t know why I’d do that. I’m smart enough already.
by Magnus Ventura
I would love to give you the origin story of this yummy drink, but Granny Ventura said she would never tell. I'm to understand it was quite a sordid issue, and Grandpappy Ventura forbade we speak of it. He did drink this delicious, all-year libation every Saturday afternoon until the day he died, so we can assume all was forgiven.
As with all my contributions, this recipe is without toxicants, but my grandmother didliberally apply toxicants of the Mexican agave variety to this otherwise totally g-rated drink.
Strawberry Mockerita (Makes 1 pitcher)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
big old pitcher
1) Slice those lemons and limes in half and juice them into your blender. Mind the lemon seeds. I like to use the Chef'n FreshForce Citrus Juicer, available at Sur La Table. But you can also just squeeze by hand, or for more pulp, squeeze while twisting a fork into the juicy bits.
2) Cut the green tops off your strawberries, unless you're weird. Chunk those into the blender. (The strawberries, not the tops).
3) Add your sugar to the blender. Some people will want to adjust this by 1/4 cup more or less, depending on sweetness preferences. But for the love of the Light, don't skip the sugar. (My Granny adds a pinch of salt, but I'm on the fence if that actually contributes to anything but good luck).
4) Pulse the blender real quick to break up the strawberries, then fill the blender with ice and water to the halfway point. (This will be pretty concentrated stuff, so you should add more water later to thin it out to your desired strength).
5) Blend. Some people like chunky strawberries, in which case, you can use a light touch here. Pour into the pitcher and move it on into the fridge.
6) Your mocktail is ready to drink immediately, but anyone south of Jamaica Plain will tell you to let it sit in the fridge overnight for the best results.
If you're entertaining, you can sugar the rims of your glasses. And if you've added any, uh, grown-up substances, salting those rims works great, too. Alright kids, that's all I've got. Stay healthy.
My Mom Thinks I'm Cool: Defensive Moves for a Bully Magnet
by Archimedes Durand
First of all, I want to say I'm offended by the title of this segment and my editor's introduction of it. Bullying is culturally insidious. This isn't 1980 when jocks would just push nerds into lockers and everyone would laugh. This is like, 40 some years later, and now anyone could shove me into a locker at any time, and I'm not even a nerd (I drive my dad's Range Rover), and also lockers are so much smaller, right? Like, when were lockers big enough to fit an average teenager?
And no one laughs. Because it's not funny.
I guess we're doing this then. *sighs*
They told me I wasn't allowed to use magic, which is good because I suck at it, so in this segment I'm going to share the moves I've been learning throughout my life to combat verbal abuse. It has to be verbal because this is a newsletter, and I can't very well show you how to block a spit wad. That would be...
no, no, I can still come up with something...
Thanks, Archie. Edge of our seats, I'm sure. Let's workshop your segment and come up with something more your speed for next time.
And that's about it. In the immortal but probably inaccurate words of the great Ferris Bueller: You're still here? Go home. Get out of here.
Christian Andreo is an author of Young Adult novels spanning contemporary fiction, science fiction, urban fantasy, and paranormal romance.
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