A Scaly New Friend

It is no secret that I’ve wanted a snake my whole life. I have been talking about reptiles since childhood, begging my parents for a scaly buddy since I could talk. The answer was always no. (Honestly, more than fair, since we were/are a household of tender-hearted vegetarians.)

I’ve been scrimping and saving for a snake since I moved out of my parents’ home at age 18. I did multiple years of research, I combed through snake-owning Facebook groups and subreddits for hours. I looked at all the ways one could — intentionally or unintentionally — abuse or mistreat their snake. It seemed like surprise financial situations kept getting in my way, however. Unexpected medical bills, vet emergencies for both my cat and my dog within a few months of each other. COVID rendering me unemployed. Moving twice in a year. It adds up!

A few weekends ago, my fiancee and I decided to get out of the house by visiting a local pet store. We promised each other that we wouldn’t come home with an animal (five cats, a dog, and four people in one tiny house is enough!!). “We’re just going to get Theodore a dog toy. Maybe we can buy a hide and a water dish for the snake when we eventually get it,” I said.

My fiancee agreed. We’d planned to get the set-up for the snake little by little, over a period of months (or even a year), so we would be prepared. Set-up first; snake last.

Well … then we met Ganymede. They (too young to tell their sex) are an albino California kingsnake. Just a few months old! They came with a cage, substate, one hide, a water dish, and a heat lamp. It was too good to be true!! We snapped up our expensive new baby, and it has been a joy.

I named them Ganymede for Zeus’s favorite cupbearer, a beautiful youth the god stole from the mortal realm. They are incredibly well-tempered and open to handling. We truly love our new buddy, and cannot wait to give them the best life ever!

(This is a picture of the albino morph from Google Images, unfortunately, not my own phone. The little bugger is too quick for a good photo!)

Albino California Kingsnake Photograph by David Kenny

A Hard Lesson in Slowing Down

By Julien-Pierre “Johnny” Campbell

Content warning: discussion of dental procedures, descriptions of physical pain, descriptions of my own emetophobia

Recently, I got all four wisdom teeth pulled. While this is usually an unpleasant experience for anyone, it was made all the more difficult by two things: 1) my intense phobia of dentists and 2) the nasty reaction I had to the pain medication I was prescribed. I will be open: due to mental illness, my teeth aren’t in ship-shape condition. I have some cavities that need to be filled and could use a deep cleaning. But when my wisdom teeth started growing in, I knew that that was one procedure I couldn’t just skip.

I was getting splitting headaches, jaw pain, and terrible earaches the like of which I haven’t had in years. It sucked. I held out as long as I could, but eventually had to give in. Those suckers had to go!

I tend to pop up almost disturbingly quickly after surgeries, disabilities, be damned. Anaesthesia doesn’t bring me down long. My energy levels for the first three days after the surgery were high. I was doing chores. I was walking the dog. I was reading, eating solid food, even doing homework. On day four, however, something changed. I threw up two times in quick succession. I started feeling feverish, I couldn’t stop crying, and I would get dizzy and nauseous if I so much as shifted on the couch. The next day, I threw up four times, and my symptoms were more of the same. My jaw ached, I could hardly speak, and I couldn’t stop throwing up! Terrible.

And if the dentist fear wasn’t bad enough —I am paralyzed with fear when it comes to vomit. If I hear someone gag, cough too hard, or even make a grossed-out face while eating, I’ll flee the room. I literally haven’t — well, hadn’t — thrown up in 11 years before 2020. And the six times I threw up in two days was more than I had thrown up in my entire life.

I learned a pretty powerful lesson over this past week: it’s okay to slow down. I got so physically sick because of the pain medication, and also because I pushed myself too hard. The harder I pushed myself, the more pain I was in: so it was this awful cycle that just fed itself. So, reluctantly, I put down the laptop. I let my housemates take over the chores. I took an extra day off work.

I’ll be frank — I didn’t enjoy it! But my body has healed much faster than I expected. I hadn’t let my body rest because I didn’t think my surgery was that big of a deal. “People get their wisdom teeth out all the time. They don’t bitch and moan about it as much as I am. They don’t cry for two hours and throw up a bunch. I’m just being dramatic.”

Well … no. I wasn’t. I honored my body’s needs, slowed down, and I’m on the mend now!!

Quarantine TV Recs: Netflix

by Julien-Pierre “Johnny” Campbell

I have never been much of a TV person. At the risk of sounding pretentious, I’m much more of a reader, a theatre/opera person, or a writer. I get very antsy sitting still, but books and the like occupy my mind decently. During quarantine, however, and at the behest of my fiancee, I’ve been sitting down and binge watching dozens of TV shows.

So, from someone who isn’t much of a TV buff, here’s a list of shows I’d recommend

That 70s Show

A childhood/high school favorite of my fiancee, this quickly became one of my favorites too. It is definitely a product of its time, and is worth being looked at with a critical eye. That said, the genuine friendship the characters have makes my heart ache with a kind of nostalgia for a time I never knew. My parents, who were in their late teens and early twenties in the 1970s, noted that it is remarkably accurate to their high school years. Its cheeky humor and the growth of its characters makes it a very fun watch.

iZombie

iZombie is a show I used to love in high school. I’m a horror fan, and zombies are my weakness. So a snarky-sweet assistant medical examiner zombie and her zombie hunter boyfriend made for some campy fun. The acting isn’t the best, nor is the writing, but it’s a lot of fun. The characters are totally lovable, and the plot twists make it worth watching!

-GLOW

I never thought a show about uber-objectified 80s lady wrestlers would be my thing, but it totally is. This is one of the most brilliantly written shows on Netflix, in my opinion. The costuming is incredible, the moral ambiguity of the characters makes them all the more compelling, and the plot is fast-paced and realistic. One of my biggest must-watches!

The End of the F***ing World

This is one of the darkest shows on my watch-list, but also one of the best. Two teenagers, one of whom thinks he suffers from psychopathy and the other who is simply bored with life, run away. The young actors are incredible! The show is intense and definitely a black comedy, but I highly recommend it!

Look for my Hulu recommendations next time!

Stylish

By: Adair Bingham

Conformity in art is a huge deal. Being able to replicate realism in a moment’s notice is what makes artists valuable in most—if not all—creative industries. Expertise in anatomy and proportion of all kinds can make or break an artist’s portfolio and, more often than not, companies are afraid to take a chance with someone who bends the rules or does things a little differently.

I’ve been told that “in order to break the rules, you have to learn them first.” I believe this wholeheartedly, but I also rather conversely think that art is more fun when it looks out of this world. By no means am I advocating for artists to forfeit learning the fundamentals and basics of anatomy, set-up, or things like that, but I do think stylization is just as important as having a good grip on the basics. Stylization makes things unique: it can make the most mundane objects eye-catching. It can transform normal into whimsical. The most humdrum and overplayed scenarios can become breathtaking and otherworldly if stylization is just given a chance. It’s refreshing to see studios taking a leap of faith and giving artists with an otherwise “unconventional” style the spotlight.

Now I know I don’t speak for everyone when I say this, but I’d take unorthodox and weird over tried and true any day without a second thought. Strange and unusual tend to stand out a lot better anyways and are also remembered better, for better or worse. It really all boils down to preference, but the general consensus is that more people are likely to actually remember something if it looks different, i.e Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse or Invader Zim. Two franchises that have nothing in common, save for the fact that they don’t conform to industry-standard styles. Not only that, but taking chances with strange styles such as these open up the doorway for smaller, independent artists to stay true to their own merits and visions, rather than censoring themselves in the name of consumerism. What makes something good or stylish is subjective, as always, but there’s a lot to be said in how it plays into the media we consume on a daily basis. So, next time you’re sitting down to watch something, pay attention to how it all plays out. Does it take risks with its narrative or does it play it safe?

Subscription Services!

by Beth Royston

I love receiving packages in the mail. Even if I know what it is, it’s still exciting, though never quite the same as a mystery piece of mail. In the pandemic especially, sometimes I’ll turn to a little retail therapy, but that doesn’t quite scratch the itch of a package arriving where I’m not entirely sure of the contents. I’ve tried a few subscription boxes lately that fit perfectly in the middle — I know when they’re coming, but not exactly what’s inside. Here are a few that I’ve tried personally, or friends have tried, as well as some that are on my future-subscription list.

Atlas Coffee Club 

I tried a subscription to Atlas Coffee Club, a coffee subscription service, as a gift to my partner. There are many coffee subscription services out there and most consist of options for you to choose your roast, grind style, and delivery frequency. My partner enjoyed trying different coffees from all around the world, and was impressed at how quickly the beans arrived after they were ground. Each Atlas shipment also included a postcard about the coffee’s origins. Overall it was a super cool way to try some things my partner might not have come across normally!

Check Atlas Coffee Club out here

Book of the Month

I love to read, but find myself busier and busier. Sometimes finding time to read is difficult enough, and if I don’t have anything new, it seems like I don’t have time to peruse my local bookstore and find something I’d like. A subscription service I want to try is Book of the Month! You can choose from up to five selections for them to send to you each month, and you can always skip a month if you’re not ready. Their books are specially curated and it seems like a great way to stick to reading more!

Check out Book of the Month here.

Sipsby 

I love tea. I’ve dabbled in making my own personalized blends and vastly enjoy trying fun flavors. While my tasting experience is a bit limited by the fact that I can only ingest decaf (thanks, caffeine intolerance) I was thrilled to hear about Sipsby, a tea subscription service. Sipsby is similar to a coffee subscription service, but sends you many different types of tea in a personalized box each month. You can specify what kinds you’d like and if you’d like decaf! 

Check out Sipsby here.

Hunt a Killer

You might have heard of this one. While I personally haven’t tried it, my roommates are true crime fanatics and love Hunt a Killer. It’s a murder mystery subscription box that comes with all the clues you need to crack a case, spread out over several episodes. It’s a blast with several people playing, and comes with a lot of really well thought out material to make every box a fun and thrilling experience.

Check out Hunt a Killer here

5 Tips For Living It Up in a Tiny Living Space

By Claire Golden

If you live in downtown Portland, you probably know the struggle: Housing is so expensive around here that a lot of us are crammed into a tiny living space. Lots of college students live in a dorm room, which is not exactly known for its spaciousness. In my own case, my fiancé and I share one small attic room, with my office wedged into one corner. But I’m quite content in this space, because I have everything that I need. Here are my tips for making a small living space yours.

1. Decorate: The first thing I did in my “office” was decorate the walls. You can hang things up with tape or sticky wall hooks so as not to anger your landlord by putting holes in the walls. I’m not picky about what goes up on the wall. It doesn’t have to be an “art print” to go on my Wall of Art. Right now I have a picture of my chicken, my enamel pin collection on a pin banner, a pigeon ornament, an embroidered cat, a John Green quote poster, and the parking pass from the place where my fiancé proposed to me. These things have nothing in common with each other except that they all make me smile.

2. Double down on storage: Storage is key in a small space, and I take great delight in my miniature drawers from Target, which hold my school supplies, makeup, and knicknacks. I am also probably the target customer for IKEA’s Raskog cart, which is a three-shelved storage cart on wheels. I have two of them, one for yarn and one for stuffed alpacas, and they are a lifesaver when it comes to storage.

3. Try journaling for frustration: Journaling is a great way to create something beautiful on paper. You can go for a basic journal or go all out with art journaling — there’s lots of inspiration on Pinterest and Instagram. Journaling is also an excellent way to cope with frustration and process your emotions…and you can do so in a pretty way.

4. Go online: When  get fed up with not having enough space to express myself,  I turn to online platforms. Then, when I can’t control something in my physical space, I can make my online space a haven. My blog and Instagram are my creative outlets and ways to connect with people. I find happiness in curating them exactly the way I want.

5. Let go of the unimportant: Above all, the most important thing I’ve learned about living in a small space is not to hold onto things that don’t make me happy. There’s no reason to keep something you don’t want to keep (except, perhaps, those tax papers…) that will only clutter up your space. My favorite book on organizing is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, in which she advises only keeping things that “spark joy.” This is the rule that I live by when it comes to my living quarters. Because of this, everything that I have makes me happy when I look at it, and it’s enough to make a small living space feel exactly the right size.

New to the Marvel Cinematic Universe

By: Ragan Love

One thing that you should know about me is that I do not like action movies. Because of this I had only seen two of the Spider Man movies, which was only because of my brother. My roommates decided that we needed to have a MCU marathon to bring me up to date.

I took us about four months to fit all of the movies into our busy schedules and we decided to watch the movies in chronological order — we started with Captain America and just finished Avengers: End Game. 

A lot of these movies were hard for me to get through because I don’t like fight scenes. I feel like they go on and on, but I love the storyline of all of the movies and how they are all connected so I still found them worth watching. 

Because I am completely new to this series, I don’t have a bias when it comes to who my favorite characters are.I have been able to create my own opinion when it comes to the MCU universe.

If you’d like my fresh, hot take, here are my top MCU movies, ranked: 

(Not included: Captain Marvel (2019), The Incredible Hulk (2008))

  1. Spiderman Far From Home: What I love about this movie is how it showed the aftermath of End Game and how Peter was affected by the events of that movie.
  1. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: I never thought that this was going to be on the top of my list but I love how well the stories of the music and the plot of the movie fit together so well!
  1. Black Panther: This is one of my favorites because of the back story of the villain in the movie. I feel like he is one of the only ones who had a reason he turned bad and wanted to take over.
  1. Doctor Strange: This was one of my roommates least favorite so I was expecting to feel the same but I was surprised. I like that his superhero name includes his Doctor title and the visuals with all of the magic was very cool. 
  1. Thor Ragnarok: A favorite movie in my house and I think the dialogue was very funny. One of my favorite avengers is the Hulk and I think he was a wonderful addition to this film. 
  1. Captain America: The First Avenger: This was a pretty good movie overall. I actually ended up falling asleep at the end so I wasn’t aware that Captain America was frozen.
  1. Avengers End Game: The only reason why this isn’t higher is because of the amount of fighting there was, I ended up doing homework every time a fight scene broke out.
  1. Iron Man 3: This is my favorite Iron Man movie because it shows the evolution of all of the suits he ever made.
  1. Spiderman Homecoming: I love Tom Holland as Peter Parker because he really captures the “I am a teenager who is dealing with that as well as being a superhero” angst.
  1. Antman: My favorite element in this movie is the relationship that Scott Lang has with his daughter and his ex-wife. I am a big fan of Paul Rudd and think he played this character perfectly!
  1. Iron Man
  2. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  3. Iron Man 2
  4. Avengers: Infinity War
  5. Thor
  6. Avengers: Age of Ultron
  7. Antman and the Wasp
  8. Captain America Civil War
  9. Guardians of the Galaxy
  10. Thor: The Dark War

Reading Fatigue: Pulling Myself out of a Literary Rut

By Erika Nelson

Every month, the Goodreads newsletter pops into my inbox. These emails taunt me by singing the praises of newly-published books: colorful rectangle covers lined up into neat rows by genre; enticing blurbs draw me in. I used to pore over these newsletters and make library holds based on book suggestions, but now emails from Goodreads just evoke guilt.

I love to read. As an English major, I think that goes without saying, but I love to read more than the average person. I’ll read pretty much anything. Fiction and nonfiction. Science texts and sci-fi novels. The latest poignant, “deep” literary triumphs alongside “comfort food” stories from childhood. A few years ago, I consumed the New Yorker cover-to-cover in an evening.  I read a book (or more) every couple weeks. More recently, however, my “to-read” list has grown longer and longer, my Goodreads account sits in stagnant silence, and I rarely read for fun anymore. Why?

College involves a lot of reading, and majoring in English involves even more reading. I read so much for school every day that by the time I have some free moments the last thing I want to do is pick up another book. Instead — and I hate to admit this — most of my spare time is spent glued to my phone. I keep up on news articles and current event pieces online and off … but when it comes to reading for the sake of reading, anything longer than 280 characters doesn’t have much of a chance.

Reading fatigue is fairly common in academic circles. In a recent discussion post on D2L, I asked classmates if they had any ideas to wake up from my word fugue. People commiserate and several expressed the same problem. They had some great ideas for combatting reading fatigue: reading while sipping my morning coffee, having a specific reading space, and reading in bite-sized pieces. From their suggestions, I’ve decided to set myself a New Month’s Resolution: read one non-school book a month for the rest of the year.

I think this is a reasonable goal, if I can manage to tear myself away from my phone more often … this is where self-discipline comes in. However, I’m going to allow myself some grace if I fall behind — after all, life happens, and instructor-assigned reading comes first. I’m excited to get started! Step one: Look over that email from Goodreads.

The Game Of Two Halves

By: Adair Bingham

Video games have always been a huge part of my life. Some of my earliest and happiest memories are of sinking hours into platformer games on the Playstation 2 out in the living room or buffing up my party team in a roleplaying game on a handheld console. I don’t think that I’ll ever “grow out” of my interest in gaming or popular culture, it’s just too embedded in who I am as a person and, to be frank, I haven’t ever really felt a need to let go of these hobbies from my childhood. I consider video games an art form, a way to escape from reality, and much, much more. I like to think of them as their own little universes, really, something that’s easy to get lost in. They’re harmless fun for a lot of everyday people and get a bad rap for no real good reason at all, namely as a waste of time or something only for kids. 

If anything, the world of gaming has quite an interesting story, especially as it relates to mental health. Naturally, it’s important to consider the concept of  “too much of a good thing”, but games are a much-needed outlet for a lot of people, no matter their ages, and I think it can be a wonderful thing. In the same vein, they can serve as a form of self-expression. They can also be a way to cope with the stressors of daily life. Video games are a lot more than just mindless entertainment for people. 

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that my interests and hobbies, specifically gaming, have largely remained the same, if not rooted in the same things. A few things have changed here and there, like the genre, title, or console, but otherwise, my interests still lay in popular culture and the nerdy side of things. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s very likely that these will still always be a part of my life and a huge part of who I am. That’s okay. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

One of my biggest gripes about having a keen interest in these kinds of things is the kind of backlash that often follows it. People are often quick to call them a waste of time or something meant only for kids when a good majority of those who actually play games are older and, on top of that, most titles are geared towards a mature audience. Maybe I’m just stewing on passive-aggressive comments from the past, but when I get to really thinking about them I still find myself getting peeved. Games are so much more than what most people make them out to be and, in all honesty, they deserve to be on the same pedestal as film and literature. That’ll likely be a long time from now, but for the time being and as the bare minimum, I think some respect is in order for video games.

A Stellar Spring

by Beth Royston

It’s time for me to share another season’s worth of favorite activities again! A lot of these activities are open all year long, but the bright colors and fragrant blooms that come with springtime makes them particularly special.

Visit the Rose Garden!

Located in Washington Park, which is also home to the Oregon Zoo, the International Test Rose Garden is a stunningly beautiful trip. It’s host to more than 10,000 rose bushes and is truly a perfect visit for anyone that’s a fan of spring. There are some absolutely gorgeous varieties of roses that I never knew existed, and every time I feel like I see something new! Plus, you can make it a day trip with Washington Park’s other activities.

Cherry Blossoms at the Waterfront Park!

Perfectly instagram-able, not everyone knows that a large majority of the trees in the downtown Waterfront Park are actually cherry blossom trees. They bloom every spring, and pictures don’t truly do it justice. You can stroll along the park while observing the blossoms, appreciating this official sign that spring is here! For anyone that’s ever wanted to travel to Japan to see sakura season, this is a wonderful experience.

Check out the Portland Japanese Garden/Lan Su Chinese Garden! 

Located in Washington Park and downtown Portland respectively, these two attractions are open all year long, but are particularly beautiful in the spring (I can also vouch for the beauty of the Japanese Garden in autumn!). Seeing lush gardens so full of life always makes me happy after winter, and you can see them at the height of their beauty.

See the Wooden Shoe Tulip Festival!

Tulips galore! Located in Woodburn, this extravaganza of tulips is a perfect way to celebrate spring. The best time to see the tulips is the first few weeks of April, but the festival is usually open until early May. They have an immense variety of tulips and other flowers to see and purchase, and also hot air balloon rentals! I hope you’ll keep these Portland spring attractions on your mind this year!