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Savage Divinity – Chapter 660

 

After weeks and months of trials and tribulations, Yan finally had hope that this would all soon be behind them and her husband return to her again.

 

Hugging Baloo tight as the sweet bear nestled in her embrace, she leaned against the carriage wall to stare out the window at the back of Rain’s vehicle. Though his curtains were drawn and she didn’t have the right angle to see through the windows, she still yearned to know how he was doing and couldn’t tear her eyes away. After weeks spent fast asleep and days shuffling about in a waking stupor, today might finally be the day he regained full consciousness and returned to them in whole. An idealistic outlook, and perhaps premature, but Yan was done with tempering expectations. She wanted her husband back, not just in body, but in heart, mind, and soul, to see him smile, hear him laugh, and feel his hand close around hers as he drew her into his embrace.

 

This whole ordeal had taken a toll on her, and she was fast approaching her limits. At first, Yan was confident her husband would wake soon enough, but then she started noticing details she couldn’t just ignore. Rain never was a sound sleeper, prone to tossing and turning even after long, exhausting hours of strenuous activity, but after passing out on the field of battle all those weeks ago, he slept the sleep of the dead. Never once did he stir in slumber, not even when she tickled his nose and feet, nor did he sigh and smack his lips when Yan or Mama Bun snuggled into the crook of his neck. In fact, aside from breathing, the only indication of life he showed was rapid eye movement behind closed lids, which Lin-Lin said meant he was dreaming, a fact she learned secondhand from Rain, who himself read it in one of those books he could never remember the names of.

 

Far be it for Yan to call her husband a liar, but there would come a day when he would finally feel ready to tell them the truth. She had her suspicions that his knowledge was the result of Heavenly Insight, but confronting him about would only make him dig his heels in and deny it even harder. Such a contrary man, her husband Falling Rain, beloved by the Heavens yet resentful of them all the same…

 

It was difficult seeing him so lifeless and inanimate, utterly unresponsive to the world around him. As the days and weeks passed by, her mind went to a dark place every time she saw him, wondering if his soul had already passed on into the Mother’s warm embrace and this was merely what was left. Worst of all, she felt a mild sense of relief every time she considered it, as this meant she might be free of her marriage vows, relief which was quickly replaced by personal loathing, but the pervasive thoughts continued to torment her. She was better off without him, he never deserved her anyways, what sort of life would she have had as one of his five wives, the reasons kept coming even though she never wanted them. They were all lies, but they came from her own mind, and a part of her wondered if it was because she truly felt this way.

 

But every time her thoughts grew too oppressive to bear, she would look at Rain and her heart would swell until it threatened to break, which was how she knew she loved him. The pain was a reminder of how much he meant to her, pain which only grew with each passing day and feared would one day subside.

 

Then, miracle of miracles, one day, he opened his eyes, got out of bed, and walked out to use the bathroom, all on his own, albeit less than a minute on Yan’s heels. Not quite the reunion she’d expected, to have him barge in naked with trousers bunched around his ankles just as she was about to relieve her bladder. Thankfully, she divined his intentions just in time to get out of the way before he opened the flood gates, and not a second too soon. That was enough to tell her not all was right with Rain, but his slack, unseeing expression hammered the point home. This wasn’t her warm and loving husband, merely a shadow of him, a cold, unthinking version mindlessly tending to his bodily needs. Some thought him aloof and distant, a man who only cared about his loved ones and mistrusted strangers, but the truth was, Rain was just awkward and nervous around new people because he was socially inept. Thanks to Luo-Luo’s painstakingly prepared lessons, he’d gotten much better at interacting with other people in recent times, but all it took was a single ambiguous comment to throw him off his game. It was amusing to see Rain dwell over an innocuous statement and wonder what the speaker really meant, when in most cases, people were rarely as subtle and cunning as he expected them to be.

 

Granted, Luo-Luo was one such person, and many of the people Rain worked with in his capacity as Legate were also the same, so perhaps there was more to it than Yan understood. Either way, this was why Rain preferred animals over people, because they were always open and honest about their feelings and therefore easily read. Oh how she missed her expressive, empathic, emotive husband and desperately wanted him back, if only to see him smile and laugh again. It was to this thread she clung onto, her boundless love which kept her spirits afloat as she tried and failed to elicit a response from him, verbal, somatic, or otherwise. Despite watching him grow healthier and more active with each passing day, her sombre mood failed to improve as she dwelt upon her dark thoughts, wondering just how long she could keep doing this without succumbing to despair.

 

“This is your husband, an empty shell of a man, one who draws breath yet is dead inside.” Those were the words echoing in Yan’s mind as she gazed upon the man she loved while they strode arm in arm through the marketplace. “What sort of life will you have with him? You once worried about sharing him, but now you should be happy to have others to help share this troublesome burden.”

 

All true, but not the entire truth, because even if he never woke, she would never give up on him. She needed no Oath to compel her, for love and hope did a fine enough job on their own.

 

Oh how her heart had raced when she felt him channelling Heavenly Energy beside her, and in the brief moment before Mother-in-law Akanai spirited him away, Yan thought she saw something, something she dared not believe just yet. For a single instant, there was a hint of focused concentration in Rain’s narrowed gaze, his amber eyes fixated on something nearby instead of staring aimlessly out into the distance. Then, he was gone, physically that is, all but carried into his carriage alongside Lin-Lin, Song, and Mother-in-law Sarnai, while leaving Yan to wonder if she’d imagined it all. Add in the fact that all the rabbits were already waiting inside and Ping Ping had trouble squeezing in, Yan had no choice but to ride in Grandpa’s carriage alongside Mila and Luo-Luo. The bears and wildcats joined them and made for a tight fit, but Grandpa didn’t seem to mind at all and was happily rubbing Aurie’s cheeks beside her.

 

Unable to help herself, she turned to Grandpa and Sent, “How is he? Have they sent word? Has he said anything?”

 

“No change, but this is a good sign,” came Grandpa’s Sent reply, smiling as he patted her knee. “We suspected your husband’s Core was mended over two weeks ago, but this is the first time he’s put it to use, deploying his Domain and displaying Purity in a rather impressive fashion. Though I know not the reason why, at least this tells us all is not lost and that his spirit still lingers inside, so even if his mind remains closed off after today, there is hope for him yet.”

 

Buoyed by Grandpa’s confidence, Yan happily shared the good news with Mila and Luo-Luo, wishing she could shout it to the Heavens instead of passing it along through Sending. Luo-Luo insisted on these strict measures when discussing Rain’s health at all times, despite everyone’s assurances that they could speak freely when their defences were deployed, as they no doubt were right now. Luo-Luo responded by saying that there was no such thing as being too careful, so it was best to remain vigilant at all times so that if their defences failed without warning, they would not be caught off-guard and accidentally reveal too much. Not the worst idea considering Xing Yong Wei, an Imperial Divinity and Rain’s supposed Dao Protector, had yet to be seen again and could very well be hiding under all their noses.

 

Yan noted that while Grandpa Du was put off by the possible presence of a Divinity hidden within their midst, her in-laws seemed utterly unruffled by the prospect, and perhaps even a little amused by their worries. Information which she took to mean the People had friendly Divinities of their own safeguarding Rain, though neither Mila, Song, nor Lin-Lin managed to pry any information out of their respective parents, but not for a lack of trying. Yan didn’t mention it to Grandpa Du either, because she knew his curiosity would get the best of him and he would actively go looking for the hidden Divinities, but she also knew the Ancestral Beasts of the Saint’s Tribulations mountains stayed hidden for good reason. As a child, she dreamt up all sorts of silly raionales for their self-imposed exile, but as she grew older and learned more about Ancestral Beasts in general, she realized the answer was far less complicated than she imagined.

 

Those powerful beings moved into the Saint’s Tribulations Mountains because they all wanted to be left alone. That was it. They wanted nothing to do with the people who lived there, not even the half-beast children they sired, and as such were only loosely related to the Sentinels, as far as Yan could tell. Even Mila didn’t know much more, having lived her entire life believing her progenitor also lived in the mountains with them. Yan believed the same was true of hers, though she’d never met another half-beast of the same type, with straight, pointed deer horns protruding from her forehead rather than from her temples as was more common in other parts of the Northern Province. Either way, there was little love lost between the people of the Saint’s Tribulations Mountains and the Ancestral Beasts who also called it home, so if Grandpa Du were to kick up a hornets’ nest with his curious investigations, then not even Mother-in-law Akanai could protect him from harm.

 

Du Min Gyu was a Living Legend and Peak Expert of the Empire, but even then he was no match for a Divinity. The Martial Path was long and arduous, and few ever reached those lofty heights, but Yan was determined to make an attempt, even if her half-beast heritage had doomed her to failure. The Mother loved all Her children equally, or so it was said, and a limit had been placed on half-beast potential to make up for their other gifts. It never made sense to Yan, but that was what everyone said, and no half-beast in the history of the Empire had ever successfully become a Divinity, false or otherwise. Such is life, and Yan was not one to argue, but neither was she someone who let others set her limits for her.

 

That’s why she loved Rain so much. He knew her well enough to set her free, encouraged her to follow her dream, and in doing so, had ensnared her heart more securely than any cage could ever hold her.

 

The minutes ticked by in agonizing slowness as she waited with bated breath, hoping to hear good news from Rain’s carriage at any given moment. Her focus was so consumed by her husband and his ongoing display of Purity, she failed to notice the direction they were headed until they arrived at the citadel’s eastern gates. Shooting Grandpa a questioning look, he smiled and Sent, “We publicly announced our plans to visit the District, and Luo-Luo rightly pointed out we cannot abandon our plans without drawing suspicion, especially not with the disturbance your husband is kicking up. Almost every Warrior in the Citadel can feel him Channelling right now, and many can sense his sizable Domain, but they are left to wonder why. Clever Luo-Luo is already quietly spreading word that someone made a clandestine attempt on his life and failed.” Jaw dropping in surprise, Yan turned her gaze to the too-beautiful Imperial Servant who smiled and winked, no doubt discerning the reason for her admiration. “No moves were made and there were enough prying eyes around to see it,” Grandpa continued, speaking in an almost hesitant tone which meant he was repeating what someone else told him. “But everyone will suspect that young Rain sensed a threat and acted prematurely.”

 

“And from there, believe that he was playing the fool, a false lamb staked out for the tiger, a role he continues to play now as we head out of the Citadel.” Yan wasn’t completely hopeless when it came to matters of politics, just mostly. She was learning though, thanks to Luo-Luo’s patient lessons and even some from listening to Rain’s complaints from before his back to back comas. Yan never wanted to be in a position like Grandpa Du’s, wherein he trusted the wrong people to manage his finances and ended up almost destitute in his old age. Of course, that was no longer an issue now that Yan had married Rain, and though she felt guilty about using his money to buy things for her grandfather, he never brought it up and even encouraged Yan to do more. It wasn’t so simple, however, as it was a matter of face, and everyone would lose if Rain financially supported Grandpa Du without offering to do the same for his parents and Mila’s, even though neither pair needed it. Mother-in-law Akanai had already made her displeasure known regarding the living arrangements, wherein Grandpa Du had moved in with Rain and Yan, but Akanai hadn’t received an invitation to move in with Mila. A mistake Rain amended by promptly inviting her as well, and though Yan was a little put off having to live under the formidable woman’s eye, it was a small price to pay to keep everyone happy, Rain included.

 

Odd that he had no complaints about living with all his in-laws, especially so soon into his marriage, but that was just the sort of man he was. Others might not see it, but Rain just had so much love to give, he couldn’t possibly be constrained to loving only a select few. One only needed to look at how he collected pets like others collected art, only Rain would never neglect a living creature, especially not one near and dear to his heart. Hence why Yan was willing to share him with his other wives, because no matter how many other women he had in his life, he would do anything and everything to make sure they all felt loved and adored.

 

As their carriage rolled away from the citadel, she spotted the Medical Saint arriving from on high, plummeting out of the sky at breathtaking speeds only to land lightly outside Rain’s carriage door, with nary a hair out of place nor a wrinkle to be found. It all happened in the blink of an eye, and Taduk made it look so easy and effortless, Yan almost gave it no thought, until she remembered they were still most of an hour away from his bamboo grove. Not much time had passed since Rain began channelling the Energy of the Heavens, yet the quirky Healer was already here to check on his health. Again, Yan turned to Grandpa Du and Sent, “How quickly could you Cloud-Step from the Citadel to the bamboo grove?”

 

“Ten minutes? Perhaps less if I truly pushed myself.” Looking up from petting Aurie, Grandpa asked, “Why’s that?”

 

“The Medical Saint is here.” Grandpa Du was every bit as surprised as Yan, perhaps even more so once she realized Taduk’s speedy arrival had gone unnoticed. Despite coddling Aurie and the other animals, Grandpa Du was likely on full alert, sweeping the area for Concealed presences and various threats to their convoy. If Taduk could sneak in unnoticed while Cloud-Stepping over three times faster than what Grandpa could manage, then this meant the Medical Saint’s Martial Talents were not constrained to only Healing. That said, it was difficult to imagine the sweet yet silly half-hare in a combat scenario, especially considering how he spent the last six months butting heads with a ground-hog and emerging defeated. The suspected Spiritual Beast was enamoured with Taduk’s garden, and being a die-hard pacifist who wouldn’t hurt a fly, the poor Healer was at a loss to stop the adorable rodent. While he had no qualms about enlisting others to kill the ground-hog for him, Rain and Lin-Lin both had taken a shine to the thieving ground-hog and were intent on bringing him into the family. Knowing this, Taduk could hardly have it killed out of hand, and the beast was too canny to be trapped by cage or net, leaving it free to come and go as it pleased. After so many successful grand heists without a hitch, the clever beast had grown bold and taken to raiding the Spiritual Plant garden in broad daylight, and was even happy to accept hand-fed treats from most of them so long as Mama Bun was properly restrained.

 

This was Lin-Lin’s plan, to capture the beast with kindness, and thus far, all they’d managed to do was throw away a literal fortune of Spiritual Plants. Granted, the prices would plummet if someone ever learned how easily mature plants could be grown, requiring little more than a friendship with a Divine Turtle, a steady supply of shrimp, and between three to twelve weeks of time. Sadly, Pong Pong showed no interest in Rain’s plight, not that Yan expected the tiny Divine Turtle to do anything about it. As Rain often pointed out, Divine Beast or not, the operative word was beast, and one could hardly expect a turtle to grasp complex human concepts, much less care to do anything about it.

 

Still, it would be nice if Pong Pong revealed himself and showed some concern for Rain, instead of arriving unseen for his daily serving of shrimp and leaving without so much as a how you do…

 

Settling back in her seat to continue staring at Rain’s carriage, she passed the time in silent prayer while Luo-Luo played a quiet tune and Mila stewed and fretted, gnawing on her hair like a nervous child instead of the formidable Warrior she truly was. Reaching over to clasp her hand, Yan offered Mila her silent support, knowing exactly what she was going through. No Warrior liked feeling helpless, or worse, like a burden, but the simple truth was that Rain was safer where he was than at their side. Should his carriage come under attack, Akanai, Sarnai, and the Guard Leader were all prepared to Cloud-Step away with Song, Rain, and Lin-Lin respectively in tow. One dominant Peak Expert per person, with Song’s presence being vital due to the constraints forcing her to remain close to Rain, and adding Mila, Yan, or Luo-Luo into the mix would only further complicate matters. Of course, this meant the rabbits would be left behind, but the sad truth was that if three powerful Peak Experts were forced to abandon the carriage, there was a good chance the rabbits were as good as dead anyways.

 

A thought which did little to raise Yan’s spirits, but at least she wasn’t dwelling over the what-ifs and envisioning the worst case scenarios like she had been over the last few weeks. A bad habit she’d picked up from Rain no doubt, which gave her a small glimpse into what it was like to live with so much angst and anxiety. There were times when her thoughts almost drove her to panic and she just had to check if he was still breathing, and others when she would convince herself that she was better off without him and start thinking about what she would do next. Which was worse, she couldn’t say, but now she knew how Rain felt so much of the time, and she hated every second of it.

 

A harmonious cord sent a surge of quiet reassurance willing up from within, and Yan smiled at Luo-Luo in thanks. Beaming beautifully as she plucked away at her pipa, the beautiful woman looked utterly unconcerned by their current plight. It wasn’t that she didn’t care about Rain’s condition, but rather she had faith in his recovery and believed he would emerge from this tribulation unscathed, with a confidence Yan sorely envied. The pleasant tune soothed away the ache in Yan’s chest, and surly Mila even released some of the tension in her shoulders as she sighed and sank into Banjo’s fur, the big baby gurgling away from within her embrace. Luo-Luo’s music was a wondrous use of Chi, so similar to Aura yet utterly different at the same time. An Aura was a sharing of Emotion, whether it be courage, hope, love, or even terror, but once the Aura faded, so too did the accompanying emotion. In this way, Yan believed Luo-Luo’s music was a superior form of Aura, because the emotions elicited by her songs stayed long after her performance ended, and sometimes could even be summoned anew through simple reminiscence. It was the difference between the light of a candle and a distant star in the sky. Both were sources of illumination, but while the candle might seem brighter, it was ultimately finite, while the star was a source unto itself.

 

The journey to the bamboo grove progressed without incident, though Rain stopped channelling the Energy of the Heavens about half-way through. According to Grandpa’s reports, Rain was still comatose and unresponsive, but as soon as Yan laid eyes on him, she believed there was more to it than that. There was tension in his body that hadn’t been there before, his shoulders square and neck strained as he moved with a stiff, almost hesitant gait. Gone was the slack, vacant expression, and in its place was a slightly focused gaze, but not one fixated on anything around him, his brow furrowed and head lowered ever so slightly. Whatever Rain was looking at did not exist here in the real world, his mind focused on something within, but it meant he was closer to recovery than ever. Striding over simply to touch his face, it pained her to see him not respond, but she would continue to wait. “Come back to me,” she Sent, kissing him lightly on the cheek. “Come back to all of us. We miss you.”

 

Pain. Defeat. Shame. These emotions flitted through Yan’s mind so quickly she wasn’t sure if she’d imagined it, but the twitch in Rain’s brow was real enough. He was in there, and he was hurting, but for some reason, he didn’t want to come out. “Are you in there?” she Sent, her heart aching as she stared into his eyes, hoping against all hope to see him staring back, but alas, his gaze remained distant and unresponsive. “Can you hear me?

 

She felt it for sure this time, his fear and reluctance, but still he did not respond. Whatever it was that caused this coma, it was different from what happened after Ping Ping’s ascension, a realization which filled Yan with dread. Despite all the clues indicating things were different, they all clung to the belief that Rain would eventually recover just like last time, but what if he didn’t? What if there was something genuinely wrong and none of them could see it?

 

“What’s wrong Yan-Yan?” Peering up at her expression, Lin-Lin hugged Rain tight and asked, “What do you see?”

 

“…It’s nothing.” Forcing herself to smile, she knew she wasn’t fooling anyone, and Lin-Lin least of all, but she hoped they all wrote it off as Yan’s needless worries. It had to be nothing. There was a time when he yearned for death and sought it out upon the battlefield, but so much had changed since then. As long as his loved ones still drew breath, there was no world in which Rain would ever abandon them, not like this. He would return, Yan was certain of this, as soon as he worked through whatever it was keeping him trapped inside, and when he did, she would welcome him back with open arms and no questions asked.

 

Rather than telling anyone and risking panic or misunderstanding, Yan merely hugged Rain tight and Sent, “I don’t know what’s wrong, but everything will be okay. As long as we are together, nothing else matters, so take your time and come back to us as soon as you can. I love you, Falling Rain. We all do.

 

Breaking off the embrace, she stepped back and smiled at everyone to show she was fine and grabbed Song and Luo-Luo by the arms. “Come on,” she said, leading them into the bamboo grove. “There’s a ground-hog out there, and I mean to tame him today, so Rain will have a new friend waiting when he wakes.”

 

Which hopefully would be sooner rather than later…

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

 

Abort mission! We’ve been discovered. Abort! Aborttttt!

 

Doesn’t really work when I have no where to abort to, but now Yan knows, I guess. Or she suspects at least, but rather than anger over my cowardly betrayal, she’s hurt by my pain and worried she hasn’t been supportive enough. That’s the worst of it really, that she blames herself for my failings, when it’s clearly all my fault. The flickering monitor screen illuminates the Void and saves me from having to see my own hateful reflection, which is good because I truly cannot stand the sight of myself. Though I can no longer hear her thoughts, I can still glean them from her expression and the emotions pouring off of her, so easily read if you care to look; she’s worried I’m trying to kill myself again, which, and it sounds stupid to even say, I never considered might be the case.

 

Technically, I’m not trying to die, but functionally, is what I’m doing any different? My goal is not death, only to escape into oblivion, but whether the world is real or illusion, the end result is the same to those I leave behind. I knew this on some level, because I kept trying to tidy up all my unresolved issues so I could leave without feeling guilty, but I never could tear myself away. I could blame the cell phone for tempting me with glimpses of my old life, but I’m pretty sure that was just me giving myself an out. I wanted to see what was happening with minimal interaction, and the cell phone allowed me to do so. It’s the whole kerfuffle with Dream Demon Vivek Daatei all over again, except this time, in reverse. Back then, I knew all those lives were illusions, but I still wanted to immerse myself within them, because they were happy, perfect lives which allowed me to escape the problems of the real world. Now, I’m still trying to escape, but instead of losing myself in the illusion, I’m trying to forget everyone and everything I ever knew so that I can finally be at peace.

 

I’m still not sure if the world is an illusion, but I’m beginning to wonder if Zhen Shi is even capable of weaving such depth and complexity into his works. I want these visions to be real, I want to go back and see everyone again, to know that their deaths were a lie and everyone is still safe and sound, but I can’t find the courage to step outside this cold, unfeeling shell and risk being wrong. Here, ensconced in the call centre of the Void, I was insulated from my emotions, but not anymore, for those severed emotions have all come home to roost. By Devouring all available Natal Souls, I’ve taken all of it back in, all the anger, shame, fear, and longing I severed and cast away, all melding seamlessly back into my Soul from whence they came. The emptiness of the Void is no match for the hollow desolation of my heart, and Yan’s support only drives home what a fool and coward I’ve been all along. Is it better to hide here and waste away alone in the void, or risk more pain and suffering in hopes of finding love and affection once again? Even if this life is real, it is not a life I deserve, because ever since I opened my eyes to this hateful, spiteful world, I have been lying to everyone I know.

 

I am not Falling Rain, scared child turned Legate of the outer provinces.

 

I am Rayne, former call-centre employee and all-around worthless waste of flesh.

 

This, more than anything, is what I fear most, of my secret getting out which will inevitably lead to overwhelming rejection. I don’t remember all of my past life, but I remember enough to know that I’m a liar and a fake. Would Mom have accepted me as her son if she knew the truth? How will Mila and Yan react when they realize they married a man at least twice their age, if not more? What about the soldiers who follow me because I am a ‘young’ talent? How will they feel when my ‘peers’ catch up and surpass me with ease, because I have long since reached my limits, while everyone else is still growing into theirs? Thus, before this world can reject me for not being Falling Rain, I must reject the world, yet still I yearn to go back to my life as an imposter and pretend to be someone who I am not, all while deceiving the people who love me most.

 

This is why I made Baledagh in the first place, not to stave off Defilement, which never made sense in the first place since Brother was the one at risk. That’s why he was trapped by Spectres when we met Qing Qing, because Brother was ready to give in and surrender, but Baledagh would not let him, because he is a Warrior. That’s what I needed him for, to be the person I was sick of pretending to be, the person I should’ve been, the Falling Rain of this world without the memories of Rayne from the last.

 

Then Mahakala shattered that illusion and I became myself again, a mistake, an anomaly, a man out of time and space. It would be best if Rayne could fade away and disappear, leaving only Falling Rain in his place, but unfortunately, I am, quite ironically, a survivor.

 

So what now? I Devoured all the Natal Souls I could, most of which were on the razor’s edge, not quite malevolent Spectres yet far from the benevolent angels I intended them to be. Fruit of the poisoned tree as it were, for in the end, my Natal Souls were a reflection of me, and I am a bitter, broken, scared man who does not know what to do next. Do I turn off the PC, rid myself of the phone, and retreat deeper into the void, or do I risk another eternity of pain and suffering by returning to the world of the living? Real or illusion, I can’t imagine anything other than calamity awaiting me, if only because I don’t think I can keep lying to the people I love. They deserve to know me for who I am, but I cannot bear to lose them again, and this time, it would be for good.

 

So true to form, I do neither, and continue watching my loved ones through the flickering monitor on my cubicle desk. It’s harder to know their thoughts without a direct connection to Heavenly Energy, but I know my loved ones well enough to parse through the signs. Heavenly Energy never offered me mind reading powers, only information that was made readily available by individuals with each and every action or non-action. Non-verbal communication, only detailed to the extent that it could almost be mistaken for mind reading, because people in general are not great at hiding their inner thoughts. Some are better at it than others, but my family and loved ones are an open book as I struggle to come to a decision.

 

Yan and Mila sit me down with Aurie and Sarankho before helping Mom feed all the pets, while Lin-Lin happily baits her ‘traps’ for the ground-hog, who is currently hiding underground and waiting for all the footsteps to die down. Taduk busies himself checking his plants while grumbling all the while about how slowly they’re growing, worried the lack of supply is slowing my recovery and agonizing over what he can do to speed things up by even a single second. After setting up her zither, Luo-Luo pitches in the only way she knows how, by playing a soothing melody meant to assure her audience that everything will work out for the best, a sentiment she must wholeheartedly believe in else she would not be able to share it through music. Lastly, dutiful Song sets to grooming Jimjam, while keeping an eye on me and the rabbits, worried the latter will gnaw on the plants while trying to figure out if I’ve gone too long without visiting the bathroom.

 

Oh right. I got rid of the Natal Soul responsible for bathroom duties, among other things. That… might prove to be a problem soon enough…

 

Luo-Luo and Lin-Lin aside, they’re all trying to distract themselves from the big problems the same way I used to, by showering love and affection on those adorable floofs who will always respond in kind. To this end, I reach out to the ground-hog and try to convince him that the people above will treat him well, but his instincts are to remain hidden and guarded unless absolutely necessary. He’ll come around eventually, I think, or at the very least, is beginning to see everyone in a more favourable light, but he’s still an herbivore and clever enough to fear predators in general, unlike a certain sweet, adorable, fearless rabbit.

 

Almost as if on cue, Mama Bun hops into my physical lap and rears up to stare me in the eyes, and in my distress, I default to finding distractions through floofs. Rather than a series of snoot selfies, the PC renders Mama Bun’s requests as a livestream snoot cam instead, but much as I would like to lose myself in her adorable antics and floofy features, there’s something wrong with the video feed. The camera is in the same, awkward angle as always, with Mama Bun poised to kiss my nose or sniff my eyes, except this time, there’s something blocking my view. Oddly enough, I can’t see what it is, but I am determined to stop thinking about my problems and focus on floofs, so I full-screen the video to study it closer. There it is. Something in Mama Bun’s paws, something she’s holding up to my face as if presenting a gift, all while she twitches her nose and flops her dangling ears from side to side in an adorable display of confused frustration.

 

So cute, but it hurts to know I’m the cause of her distress. Granted, it hurts knowing I’m causing the others distress too, but they’re all reasoning human beings who will be fine without me. Mama Bun is just a simple rabbit who doesn’t understand why I won’t hug and pat her anymore, and it kills me to see how hard she’s working just to get my attention.

 

No. Stop. Don’t focus on your fuck ups, pay attention to the floof. What’s she holding there? Why can’t I see it? It’s not a lighting issue, nor is it a matter of something getting in the way. It’s like there’s an empty void in her paws, one my brain ignores and automatically fills in with what I know should be there, Mama Bun’s delightfully soft and floofy belly. Concealment? Quietly activating my Domain, I keep it as close to my skin as possible so as not to alert the guardians watching my every move and gently reach out to probe the nothingness between Mama Bun’s paws. Believing I’ve solved this somewhat obvious puzzle, it strikes me as odd when there’s no response, my Domain passing through empty space without encountering any feedback or resistance, but the answer soon reveals itself as Pong Pong does the same.

 

Eyes wide and mouth agape, the tiny turtle is cuter than I remember, especially seeing as he’s missing his customary scowl. “Friend,” his emotions and expression exclaim, having sensed my presence within. “Play?”

 

Oh. My. God.

 

He misses me!

 

I thought he didn’t care and was only here for shrimp, but it seems like he realized I wasn’t actually here in spirit or whatever, so he just ignored my physical presence. His invitation to play is laced with a sense of hope and longing, because he truly does not have all that many chances to let loose and have fun. I should play with him, let him know he’s loved, but I can’t. He wants me to come out and see him, but I don’t dare, for so many reasons and more. Not just Zhen Shi, though the Empire’s boogeyman is a big part of why I’m here, but also because I’ve made too many mistakes and don’t know where I could even begin to correct them all. It’s too late for me, there’s no place in this world for me anymore, and everyone would be better off without me, but this complex, nuanced message is above and beyond even Pong Pong’s remarkable comprehension, especially since I can’t use words to explain it. “No play,” I Send, in the same way he communicated with me, through empathy and emotion. “Fear. Danger.”

 

Mistaking my message to mean that I am in danger, rather than me being the danger, Pong Pong retracts his arms and legs into his shell, but leaves his head poking out. “Flee?” he asks, and there’s no mistaking his unspoken implication that we flee together. “Hide?”

 

“No.” Struggling to find a way to explain my predicament, I present Pong Pong with the image of myself trapped in a net, one affixed with stones to drag me down into the dark, fathomless depths. “No escape. Despair. Distress. Desolation.”

 

Pong Pong’s answer fills me with warmth as he pops back out of his shell, peers around, and asks, “Where danger?” There is no concern in the message, only grim determination, ready to fight off whatever it might be that threatens me while emanating calm reassurance. And here I thought he didn’t care. The little guy is a bit of a coward, but that’s in his nature. He doesn’t go looking for fights, but if one comes to him, he’s willing to throw down. What’s more, he didn’t even hesitate before offering to help, even though it’s clear the danger is to me, and not him. The little guy doesn’t show affection like Ping Ping or any of my other pets, but he’s a true friend to the end.

 

Which doesn’t make this any easier. How do I explain that this isn’t something we can fight? That I’ve grown weary of the struggle and no longer wish to continue onwards? That I love him and will miss him, but he must carry on without me because I am too weak to continue on? How do you say goodbye to your loved ones when you mean to abandon them? How do you make them understand?

 

You can’t. Or at least, I can’t. I understand this now. Real or illusion, I can’t abandon the people in my life, not like this. All this time, I’ve been struggling to figure out what to do next, but there’s only ever been one answer. Oblivion was a pipe dream, an impossible goal I never would’ve reached, something to strive for while waiting on a proper excuse to cut and run. Whether it be death, abandonment, or something else, I just wanted a reason to justify my selfish cowardice in not even taking a chance to see if my loved ones still live. In fact, I’m fairly certain this is not all an elaborate illusion from Zhen Shi, and that the true illusion was the disastrous defeat of the Imperial Army on the fields of Central. There are too many complex intricacies and implied subtleties even for a master like Zhen Shi, or at least that’s what I suspect, but the pain of losing everyone hurt so much, I’m terrified of losing them again. Not just seeing them die, but knowing that even if they live, they will reject me once they inevitably figure out I’m not who I’ve been pretending to be, which is a bridge I’ll eventually have to cross. The longer I wait, the worse it’ll be, but I’m already far beyond the point of no return. The stress of pretending to be someone I’m not is too much to bear, because I am no Warrior or Legate. I’m just a guy who’s so in over his head, it’s not even funny anymore.

 

“HUG!” comes the demand, and I instinctively respond. Not with my body, but my mind, and all of a sudden, Mama Bun is here in the Void, wrapped in my arms and snuggled up against my chest. The surge of love and happiness is almost too much to bear as the sweet rabbit’s affections are laid bare, so expressive and coherent she might as well be sharing all her happiness with me. Poking his head out from between her fur, Pong Pong glances around, realizes where he is, and promptly settles back into Mama Bun’s fur as I clutch them both tight, unable to hold back the stream of tears spilling from my eyes, because there is nothing more pure and wonderful than the love of an animal.

 

I’m an idiot for running from all this. Even if I suspected all my loved ones were dead, my goal should not have been to run from their killer, but to avenge them and see justice done.

 

When my tears finally slow and the pain fades away, I find myself lying underneath my cubicle with Mama Bun in my arms. Pong Pong is there too, clambering out to look me in the eye. “Home,” he declares, using a jumbled mix of warmth, safety, and comfort to convey his meaning, before using those same emotions again to express a similar, but altogether different concept. “Family.”

 

That’s the same Aura I used to lure him out of the Azure Sea, the message which drove him out of hiding to come find me in the first place. Granted, at the time I was looking for Blobby, but Pong Pong was the one who responded, and since then, we have become family. Now, he’s telling me that whatever my problem might be, he’s here to help me, and this support means more than he could ever know. I can’t even begin to fathom the trials and tribulations he’s been through, but having felt the depths of his despair and dejection, I can’t imagine it’s been easy. However, based on the promise of home and family, as well as an offering of shrimp, Pong Pong invited me into his Natal Palace long before I understood the dangers that entailed, all because he wanted a family to love and cherish.

 

Isn’t that what we all want? To love and be loved, but animals are just more honest about it. We all have our struggles, our own personal trials and tribulations, so it’s time I stopped running from mine and reclaim all that is good in my life.

 

Glancing around at the call-centre of the Void, I do away with this stifling, depressing atmosphere and bring us back to my bedroom, complete with all the fine comforts of home. The ceiling to wall windows offer me a glimpse out into the world, not the world I first hailed from, but the world I ended up in, complete with so many of my loved ones watching over me. They all have their own inner demons too, demons which have nothing to do with Spectres, the Father, the Enemy, or Zhen Shi, and while they also struggle with their problems unseen, unlike me, they have not given up.

 

Mila has a volatile temper and is prone to internalizing all her frustrations, while Yan has abandonment issues and worries about losing the people she loves. Luo-Luo is a smart, confident, capable woman, but wholly lacking in personal identity or ambition, and Mom cares too much about what other people think when they see her with her ‘young’ husband. Dad and Alsantset are a little too in love with bloodshed, a flaw they both acknowledge, but one Dad has no intention of rectifying, unlike my kind, caring, devoted sister. Not to say she doesn’t have other problems of her own, but she manages them without blinking, almost as well as Li-Li deals with her various traumas. Taduk can never focus on any one issue unless it captures his interest, and Akanai is a control freak who needs to take charge whenever possible, but out of everyone here, the person I empathize with the most is someone I rarely truly interact with, and now I understand why.

 

Because Husolt, the happy, friendly, bear of a blacksmith who is both my Father-in-law and Grandfather, has been struggling with unresolved issues of burning anger and ponderous guilt for the last five decades.

 

Unlike with everyone else, Husolt’s emotions speak clearly to me, emanating off of him in crashing waves as he struggles to find Balance in the bamboo grove. His anger stems from his blind eye, an injury he took many years ago fighting alongside his beloved wife. I once asked him about it, and he told me it never healed due to an unresolved grudge, and in a way, he was telling the truth. Fifty years ago, the Sentinels responded to an Imperial call for aid wherein Akanai rescued Fung’s father from a Defiled incursion, a feat which earned her an Imperial summons to Central. Husolt went with her, hoping to finally see his wife receive her due recognition, for she had worked herself to the bone for centuries to defend and enrich the people of the Empire she so loved.

 

But instead, he saw her derided and humiliated, before being run out of Central and hunted like a prize to be won, all while he was helpless to defend her.

 

It was during one of those many battles wherein Husolt lost his eye, a wound which I now see has festered and taken root in his very soul. It became a part of his identity, the blind fool who should have seen the truth sooner and spared his wife the pain and misery, and thus resisted all attempts to Heal it. The injury lit a fire within him, a blazing conflagration of rage and hatred, one he keeps carefully banked and contained for fear of it consuming him whole. This forced him to put aside his weapon for fear of Defilement, but now, half a century later, he hopes to conquer his anger so that he might once again fight at her side, a sentiment he broadcasts to all who might hear, which is sadly limited only to his wife, his son, and myself. Even Mila and Song know nothing about his problems, because he is deeply ashamed of his flaws and terrified of the consequences should he ever lose control.

 

Seeing this part of him leaves me filled with regret, for I have seen a part of him which he is deeply ashamed of and never wanted anyone to know about, but now I do, and I cannot forget. How can he blame himself for the actions of others? I myself saw firsthand how his anger took a hold of him, when Husolt beat the nineteen-years-young Dugu Ang to death for daring to threaten Mila. The worst part is, his brush with Defilement is not solely due to Spectres, for it is in his nature to be passionate and quick-tempered. There’s nothing I can do for him, because these are his inner Demons, and he must overcome them or be controlled by them, a battle he has struggled with in silence for his entire life.

 

But not alone. He has his loving wife to lean on, who has supported him through these trying times as best she could, and now, a daughter, a son, and so much more to go along with it. He has family to rely on, as do I, and while I fear this might one day no longer hold true for me, I cannot keep hiding from what might be. I, like Husolt and so many others, can only make my way through life one step at a time, and hope for the best.

 

“Anger is not the enemy,” I whisper, hoping to offer what little aid I can. “Nor is fear, shame, or anything else. They are all a part of being human, so do not try to eliminate them. You must embrace them.”

 

Advice I could use myself, though I’m still terrified to tell the truth about who I really am.

 

…Well, worst comes to worst, at least my floofs will always love me. It’s something.

 

Climbing onto my giant bed, I lay down with Mama Bun and Pong Pong and share my love with both of them before closing my eyes. It’s not so easy to leave the Void, not with all the measures I put into place to separate my mind and body, but soon enough, I will return to the world of the living and face my fears once more. Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe Zhen Shi will be there waiting to snatch me up, but this time, I refuse to go down without a fight.

 

I am not Falling Rain, Warrior and Legate, nor am I Rayne, call-centre employee and fish out of water. I am… someone else, someone in between, and while I don’t know who that is exactly, it’s high time I stopped denying it and figured out who I really am.

 

This is my journey. The path stands before me, and for better or worse, I must see it through to the end, because despite having tried my damnedest to do so, I truly do not know how to quit.

 

Chapter Meme

 

And thus, SD comes to an end for 2020. This was as uncliffy as I could make it, and I’ll be back in 2021, but no idea when. Come to discord if you want the most recent SD news or if you just wanna chat. If I don’t see you there, then have a merry christmas and a happy new year! Thanks for sticking with me for this long, and I hope you’ll all be here for SD’s end in 2021! May next year be better than this one, or at the very least, not worse.

 

Goodbye and take care!

 

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NOS CUENTAN + DE ESTO AQUÍ

40 last-minute gifts anyone who just moved into a new apartment will appreciate not having to buy themselves [Silicon Alley Insider]

When you buy through our links, we may earn money from our affiliate partners. Learn more.

otherland candles

Jada Wong/Business Insider

  • If you’re buying a gift for someone who just moved into their first apartment, we recommend giving them something they wouldn’t otherwise want to spend their own money on.
  • That means going for the little luxuries like a really nice room spray, or something practical like a robot vacuum
  • No matter what you choose, they’ll appreciate any of the 40 new-apartment gifts below.
  • Looking for more last-minute gift guides? Find them all here

The best part of moving into your first apartment or home is getting to create a space that’s all yours. Finding the perfect decor and picking out furniture is the exciting part, but there are also small necessities to consider. A laundry hamper, bedding, pots and pans – these are just some of the purchases a recent grad or young professional will need to make.

We recommend getting them some combination of the basics they wish they didn’t have to spend their own money on, and the little luxuries that can make life infinitely better.  

40 last-minute gifts for anyone in a new apartment:

This list includes Sponsored Products that have been suggested by Coop Home Goods and Nakedwines.com. They also meet our editorial criteria in terms of quality and value.*

A really good chef’s knife wusthof gourmet hollow edge santoku knife

Williams Sonoma

Wüsthof Gourmet Hollow-Edge Santoku Knife, available at Williams Sonoma, from $64.95-84.95

It’s not the only knife they’ll ever need, but it’s the best they’ll need the most. Get them a really good chef’s knife to start their collection, and if you really want them to take care of it, get them a sharpener as well. This one is good for beginners.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A Swiffer WetJet Wood Starter Kit swiffer wetjet wood product image

Amazon

Swiffer Wet Jet Wood Starter Kit, available at Amazon, $27.99

Exactly the thing that everyone needs after moving into a new place.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A carefully designed, affordable pillow Coop Home Goods pillow

Coop Home Goods

Coop Original Pillow, available at Coop Home Goods, $59.99

We’ve deemed the Coop Original Pillow our best overall pillow namely because of its adjustable fill, washable pillow cover, and its 100-night-trial — an especially appealing feature if they’re starting fresh in a new home. A new apartment is best enjoyed on a great night’s sleep, and they’ll likely be grateful that you’re helping them start off on the right foot. 

*Sponsored by Coop Home Goods.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A box of wine to remind them to take a breath and celebrate apartment gift update

NakedWines/Instagram

Six bottles made by award-winning independent winemakers, available at Nakedwines.com, $39.99 (originally $139.99, use promo code ‘AWIN100’ to save $100)

Somewhere in the shuffle of everything, they might forget to take the whole experience in and celebrate a new phase of their lives. Bring over a bottle of wine from NakedWines.com, a unique site that lets you «invest» in independent winemakers and find affordable, high-quality wines. The ‘AWIN100′ promo allows you to pick whites, reds, or a mix of both. For future orders, you have to order six bottles at a time. 

*Sponsored by NakedWines.com

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

An espresso machine gaggia classic pro

Chloé Seytre/Courtesy of Owen Burke/Business Insider

Gaggia Classic Pro Espresso Machine, available at Amazon, $449

Kitchen gifts are always appreciated, and there’s nothing that accentuates a new kitchen quite like a powerful espresso machine. If you have the budget to treat a loved one, we recommend the top pick in our guide to the best espresso machines

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A crystal decanter (on sale) waterford decanter

Waterford

Short Stories Retro Bond Decanter, available at Waterford, $137.50 (originally $275)

One of those things few people will spring for themselves, a crystal decanter will liven up any room.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

Stemless wine glasses that won’t spill or break as easily stemless wine glasses

Amazon

Riedel O Stemless Wine Glasses, available at Amazon, 4 for $44.25

When my partner and I moved in together years ago, their mom bought us a nice set of tall, thin-stemmed wine glasses — likely because I had once served her Cabernet in a mason jar. Though I like using those to entertain occasionally, I prefer these stemless glasses that are much more casual and much less breakable (…kind of like a mason jar). 

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A gift card to buy the best set of sheets they’ve ever slept on brooklinen sheets

Brooklinen

Brooklinen Gift Card, available at Brooklinen, from $50

Our executive editor calls Brooklinen’s sheets one of the best purchases she’s ever made, and many of us at Insider Reviews feel the same way. They’ll be able to choose from quite a few weaves and materials as well as a huge selection of fun prints and colors. A basic full set costs around $130, for reference.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A personalized trinket tray for all their odds and ends catchall

Mark and Graham

Greek Key Ceramic Catchall, available at Mark & Graham, $29

Catch-all trays are the kind of gift that may seem underwhelming until you realize how useful they are. That was certainly the case when I was gifted one after college. Now I have a few of them around my apartment — one for keys and sunglasses by the door, one for my rings and jewelry by the bed, and another in the living room for lip balm, candle matches, and other small items. This one is customizable with their initials as an extra sweet touch.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A really nice speaker Google Home Max_6_738

Google

Google Home Max, available at B&H Photo, $199.00

The experience of listening to music on the Google Home Max is absolutely unparalleled, which makes the high price tag easier to justify — assuming you can bear to part with it. If you’ve got a big budget, this is the way to go for anyone who loves listening to music at home.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A single-serve blender for smoothies and small batches nutribullet

Amazon

Nutribullet Blender, available at Amazon, $79.99

They’re likely not going to need a full-sized blender for any reason other than making large batches of frozen margaritas. Gift them a personal-sized blender for making healthy smoothies at home — and if they want to make a few frosty cocktails, they’ll just have to put in a little extra work. 

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A robot vacuum that makes quick work of chores Eufy Robovac

Eufy

Eufy RoboVac 11S, available at Amazon, $149.99

Vacuuming is one of the great time-sucks in life — literally. Give them back their Sunday afternoons with the gift of a robot vacuum that’ll take the work out of cleaning the house. On a personal note, I can’t recommend this one enough. You can read a more thorough review of it here.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

Wall hooks that work in any room loop wall hooks set

West Elm

Loop Wall Hooks (set of 3), available at West Elm, $30

If they’re living the big city life in a small city apartment, they’ll appreciate any extra storage they can get. These wall hooks can be hung up by the door to hold coats, keys, and bags, or they could go in the bedroom to store additional items that won’t fit in the closet.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A Dutch oven they’ll have for the rest of their life Le creuset

Amazon

Le Creuset 5.5-Quart Dutch Oven, available at Williams-Sonoma, from $150

A Le Creuset Dutch oven is one of those coveted kitchen items that most people don’t get until their weddings, if ever. It’s a special gift I only recommend giving to someone who really loves to cook. If you want to get them something a little less expensive but equally as useful, go for an eight- or nine-inch cast-iron skillet

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A coffee maker for one best gifts for new apartment

Amazon

Mr. Coffee 12-Cup Programmable Coffee Maker, available at Amazon, $24.99

They can brew tons of coffee in this classic coffee maker — a priceless gift, if you ask me.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A desk they can use in any room Gifts for new apartment portable desk

Walmart

Mind Reader Multipurpose Home Office Computer Desk, available at Walmart, $69.99

If they’re moving in the near future, their first apartment will likely be doubling as an office. This desk can be used while sitting or standing, and its complete portability allows it to move with them from room to room.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A toaster that’s as sleek as it is functional New Apartment gifts Smeg toaster

Williams-Sonoma

Smeg Two-Slice Toaster, available at Williams-Sonoma, from $169.95

If they don’t want to sacrifice design for functionality, Smeg’s kitchen tools and appliances are the way to go. We’ve deemed Smeg’s toaster the best for the design-obsessed for this exact reason.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A punny bath mat to match any type of decor gifts for new apartment

Urban Outfitters

Southwest Runner Bath Mat, available at Urban Outfitters, $34

Bath mats are one of those necessities that no one likes to spend their own money on or think twice about. Gift them a punny bath mat that has enough personality to make them chuckle every day. If you know what their space looks like and want to get them something more even adventurous, check out more bath mat designs here.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A friendly welcome mat Etsy Welcome Mat

TheDoormatory/Etsy

TheDoormatory Doormat, available at Etsy, from $44.95

Likewise, a welcome mat is another home basic they’re going to need but aren’t going to want to purchase. This simple one is fun enough without bordering on tacky. 

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

Candles that really make it feel like home otherland candles

Jada Wong/Business Insider

Otherland Candles, available at Otherland, $36 each or 3 for $89

Otherland’s candles have the most beautiful packaging and intriguing scents (think: sandalwood and amber, or champagne and saffron). This is one gift you’ll love giving as much as they’ll love getting, and it’ll add a sweet touch to their space. 

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A jumbo pack of removable hooks that won’t damage the wall command hooks

Amazon

Command Hooks 7-Pack, available at Amazon, $12.60

You can never have enough Command Hooks — especially if you’re a renter who can’t nail anything into the wall. This multi-pack makes a great stocking stuffer.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

An exceptionally cool cocktail shaker for the person who loves to travel airplane cocktail shaker

Williams Sonoma

Airplane Cocktail Shaker, available at Williams Sonoma, $62.99

Sure, you could find cheaper or simpler bar tool kits or cocktail shakers out there, but this one is just too cool to pass up. If you know someone who loves to travel or just loves to play around with fun gadgets, you won’t regret giving them this cocktail shaker. The propellers aren’t quite functional, but they do spin when you shake the canister! 

If this one isn’t quite their style, check out some of the other ones we love here at a variety of price points

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A place to put their booze deco handle tray o

West Elm

Deco Handle Tray, available at West Elm, $59.50-$89.50

Whether they have a proper bar cart or not, one simple way to add sophistication to space is to store liquor and/or barware on a pretty tray. This neutral option is great for anyone who entertains a lot — they can use it as a serving platter or hold their at-home minibar.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A utensil holder for easy access to cooking tools utensil crock

West Elm

Textured Utensil Holder, available at West Elm, $29.50

Unless they absolutely love to cook, a utensil crock probably won’t be the first thing on their mind when they move into a new space, so this is a smart and useful kitchen gift they’ll appreciate.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A cool canvas art print to personalize their space Redbubble alfred hitchcock

Redbubble

Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo Canvas Print (Medium, 12″x17″), available at Redbubble, $78.24

Redbubble helps more than 700,000 independent artists and designers share their work with the world through its online marketplace — all while committing to sustainable and socially responsible practices. The marketplace promises something for everyone with its «uncommon designs on awesome stuff.»

We love Redbubble’s original, quirky art printed on products ranging from canvas prints to cell phone cases to bath mats. This canvas print is a perfect piece of wall art for any Hitchcock film buff.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A cozy throw to snuggle up with knit blankets

Crane & Canopy

Knotted Throw, available at Crane & Canopy, $89

This is the blanket we fight over in my house — it’s cozy, warm, breathable, and supremely soft. You’ll find it in a few different colors at Crane & Canopy.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A curated set of pots and pans that won’t fall apart New aparment gifts Potluck

Potluck

Potluck Kitchen Essentials Set, available at Potluck, $270

Help them get their kitchen fully stocked with the right tools. Potluck makes cookware comparable to brands like All-Clad and Calphalon, but at direct-to-consumer prices that won’t break the bank. Shop from a selection of well-curated bundles that fit all of their cooking needs. You can read a more in-depth review here

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A coat rack marinello coat rack

Wayfair

Marinello Coat Rack by Union Rustic, $52.99

Coat racks can go overlooked, but they need a place to hang their hat (and coat) just like everyone else, especially now that they have a place to call their own. Rustic and modern at once, this one will work almost anywhere.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A new down duvet that works for every season down duvet gallery 01

Casper

The Down Duvet (Full/Queen), available at Casper, from $261

Casper makes three equally excellent comforters, but this one is the more basic option. Its stitched compartments keep the ethically-sourced down from spreading through the blanket, and the organic cotton shell is gentle and cooling. 

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A set of hand towels for the bathroom Monogram white towels

Crane & Canopy

The Classic Hand Towels, available at Crane & Canopy, $18

Hand towels are a necessity made all the more fun when embroidered or monogrammed. Crane & Canopy offers a variety of colors and styles for a personalized touch.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A beautiful set of coasters they’ll actually want to use onyx marble coasters set of 4 chartreuse

West Elm

Onyx Marble Coaster Set of 4, available at West Elm, $40

Hopefully, it’s a lesson they won’t ever have to learn the hard way: always use a coaster. If you get them this beautiful set, they’ll actually want to. 

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A laundry basket that blends with any decor round weave laundry baskets natural

West Elm

Round Weave Laundry Baskets, available at West Elm, $65-$150

A laundry basket is another much-appreciated gift they’ll be thankful to not have to buy themselves. The lining of this one is removable, and if they already have a laundry basket, they can use it to store extra sets of sheets and towels. 

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A streaming stick that turns their plain TV into a smart TV amazon fire tv stick The Amazon Fire TV Stick is a small but powerful media streaming device.

Amazon

Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, available on Amazon, $29.99

If they’re looking to cut the cost of cable out of their lives, a streaming stick is the way to go. It turns a regular TV into a smart TV by making all their favorite media apps like Netflix and Hulu available through a voice-controlled remote.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A beautiful set of dinnerware year and day ceramic dinnerware

Year & Day

Year & Day Dinnerware, available at Year & Day, from $44

Most people’s first apartments (and the next few after that, if we’re being honest) feature cabinets full of mismatched plates, glasses, and mugs they’ve collected over their time in college. Get them a new set of dishes, glasses, or flatware from Year & Day, one of our favorite new startups out there. If you’re not ready to commit, you can read a full review of their dinnerware here

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A salt lamp to give their space a warm glow himalayan salt lamp

Amazon

Himalayan Glow Salt Lamp, available at Bed Bath & Beyond, from $12.99

I swear by my salt lamp for creating a relaxing vibe at home. This one was gifted to me two years ago and I still use it every day. 

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A signature scent for their new home gifts for new apartment

Nordstrom

Diptyque Baies Room Spray, available at Bloomingdale’s, $68

A room spray is a fun twist on the classic gift of scented candles — and you can’t go wrong with anything from Diptyque. During the cooler months, there’s nothing more gorgeous than the iconic, floral Baies (roses and blackcurrant leaves) scent, which you’ll find concentrated in this beautiful mist.

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A shower caddy that will follow them through multiple apartments to come 5b50aaeefd0b9119008b47e2 1920 1440

Amazon

Simple Human Tension Shower Caddy, available at Amazon, $129.99

This shower caddy is one of the most useful things in my apartment. It uses an adjustable tension rod to hold itself into place and it can fit everything from a weirdly shaped bathtub ledge to a full floor-to-ceiling walk-in shower. It’s a little pricey, but Simplehuman is known for making quality home products that rarely if ever need to be replaced. I’ve had mine for more than three years and it hasn’t rusted at all (you can read my full review of it here).

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A smart device that can answer almost any question and play music Echo Dot

Amazon

Echo Dot 3rd Generation, available at Amazon, $24.99

You can’t go wrong when it comes to gifting the Echo Dot. It’s a small speaker with major power, and Alexa can answer all their questions about the weather, traffic, and more. They’ll also be able to play music, games, and control other smart devices around the home. 

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A cost-effective investment in their seltzer habit sodastream

Amazon

SodaStream Fizzi Sparkling Water Maker, available at SodaStream, $105.59

If La Croix sparkling water is their main source of hydration, they’ll love having a SodaStream around to make seltzer on demand. They can flavor it with drops meant to taste just like the real thing or create their own infusions — either way, they’ll save a lot of money over time. 

Note: The more expensive of the two options comes with two soda bottles and two CO2 cylinders, while the less expensive one only comes with one bottle and one CO2 filter. 

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

A storage ottoman to save them space ottoman

Target

Cole Classics Square Storage Ottoman, available at Target, $84.99

Every extra ounce of storage space matters in a small apartment, which is why this storage ottoman makes a perfect (and decor-neutral) gift. The lid lifts to reveal enough space for throw blankets and a pair of slippers. 

Editor’s note: This gift may arrive after Christmas.

Read the original article on Business Insider
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La mejor agencia de branding regalará campaña de publicidad al mejor emprendedor

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Birth Group mejor agencia de publicidad y branding de México de este 2020 por TOPFICE, agencia  internacional que evalúa a través de los festivales más importantes de publicidad y el marketing,  presenta el concurso “B! ENTREPRENEUR”, con el afán de celebrar navidad y año nuevo y apoyar el  emprendimiento en nuestro país.   Birth Group entiende

The post La mejor agencia de branding regalará campaña de publicidad al mejor emprendedor appeared first on Roastbrief.

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Hailey Baldwin Reveals the Moment She Knew She Loved Justin Bieber

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In a recent Instagram story, Hailey Baldwin recently revealed the exact moment she knew she was in love with her husband, pop star Justin Bieber.

Baldwin played a challenge that’s been circulating around Instagram, in which she offers a message box where people can ask her to post a pic of anything. One fan asked her to post a pic of “first time you knew you were in love with jb.”

Hailey posted a picture of herself dancing with Justin in a darkly lit area near a pool. She didn’t add any words or further explanation to the sweet photo, but at least now fans have a little bit more information about her entrancing love story with one of the world’s most famous performers.


Rumors Are Circulating That Hailey Is Pregnant With Her First Child

Hailey Bieber Baldwin

Hailey Bieber Instagram

Thanks to a pretty cryptic Instagram post her pop star husband shared on December 20, fans are now wondering whether Hailey is currently pregnant.

Justin shared a picture of him hugging Hailey as she held their dog. He wrote in the caption, “These are nights I could only have dreamed of. If you were at my crib last night you know what I’m talking about”

Hailey shared Justin’s post to her Instagram stories, but didn’t add any more context to the special evening. Now, the pregnancy rumors are going wild. Neither Hailey nor Justin has confirmed those rumors, but both have them have confirmed, on numerous occasions, their desires to have a big family. Most recently, Justin told Ellen Degeneres that he was essentially waiting for Hailey to be ready to become a mother.


Baldwin Also Showed Fans Her Makeup-Free Face, & a Photo of Her When She Was Drunk

Hailey Baldwin

Hailey Bieber Instagam

In her fan-focused photo dump onto her Instagram stories on Tuesday, Baldwin also shared a number of other photos to fan requests. She shared a photo of her face without any makeup, as well as a photo of her when she was drunk. She also shared a number of pictures for corresponding dates, including March 12, 2019, and April 22, 2020.

Baldwin has recently spent some time in Los Angeles, ringing in the holidays with her best friends Kendall and Kylie Jenner for a potluck last week.

Bieber shared a video of Jenner preparing some food to Instagram. When Jenner saw Bieber was filming her, she offered up a picture-perfect smile. In true holiday fashion, Bieber added Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” to the background of the video.

Jenner later shared some of her own photos to Instagram, revealing that sister Kylie had come over, too, and all three of the girls had provided a portion of the meal to the holiday potluck. “Chef Kenny,” Jenner captioned one of the Instagram photos.

 

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38 Actually Fun Things To Do if You’re Home Alone for the Holidays

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Watching Home Alone this year hits different. With COVID-19 cases surging, millions of Americans are currently Kevin McCallister-ing away from their loved ones, making the holidays look a little different this year. Feelings of guilt and profound loneliness can make being home alone during this pandemic holiday season a decidedly weighted experience. But that’s only if you don’t have ideas for what to do during holidays alone.

Beyond sparing yourself the mental toll of family drama, being alone over the holidays presents a rare opportunity to celebrate in the way that you and only you want. So, yes, being home alone during the time of year usually marked by group revelry is tough for a number of reasons, it doesn’t have to be flat-out dull. Below, get dozens of ideas for what to do during holidays alone that’ll make you feel loved, entertained, and festive.

38 actually fun ideas for what to do during holidays alone

1. Read every single book you said you wanted to read last year but didn’t

Every Christmas, I ask for five or six books, and read half of them in a week. The rest of the year, the remaining selects in my TBR pile remain totally neglected. If this is relatable, you might as well get back to reading more while you have a moment of quiet.

2. Roller-skate around your house to the Supremes’ Merry Christmas album

This is an ideal idea for what to do during holidays alone if you A. have a large enough space, B. have smooth hardwood floors, and C. have roller skates that have been collecting dust under your bed since summer ended. Making your home a DIY roller rink, and blasting “My Favorite Things” feels like a pretty dreamy fantasy to me.

3. Bake some Christmas cookies and delight in not having to share

If you, like many Americans, find the entire process of baking soothing, feel free to try one of our healthy holiday cookie recipes. Or, you know, pre-cut chocolate chip cookie dough is always an option.

4. Or be more altruistic by making treats and sharing with someone in your neighborhood

To that end, it’s a great time of year to do a (zero-contact) dessert swap, so see if someone local might be interested.

5. Purge your wardrobe for clothes to donate

Many of us are quitting the hard-pants life for good in favor of matching sweatsuit sets. That’s no reason to let great jeans go to waste, though! So, take this opportunity to clean out your closet and share the sartorial wealth.

6. Dress up in your fanciest winter looks

Putting on an outfit can sometimes help change our self-perception, so if you want to feel like a Sugar Plum Fairy, ditch your sweatpants (just for a bit!) for some tulle.

7. Play Secret Santa for someone who could really use the TLC

Maybe this means sending a gift basket to the pandemic bride who had her wedding reconfigured and cancelled three times. Or maybe it means something else—the sky’s the limit.

8. Put your physical photos into albums

If you can’t be with loved ones in person, embrace them another why by finally finding your old snapshots a permanent home.

9. Curate your dream bubble bath

Pinterest is flooded with so many gorgeous ways to soak. Consider a sparkly bath bomb, some dried rose and lavender, or even go for a milk bath, à la Christmas Queen Mariah Carey.

10. Make your own festive cocktail with all the trimmings

I enjoy playing with pomegranate juice and prosecco this time of year, or making the most of my St-Germain for elderflower-flavored beverages. But, there are no rules here.

11. Host your own mid-century-style holiday party on Zoom

I mean, I guess on Mad Men nobody was sitting on their MacBook, waiting for their turn to talk, but you know what I mean. Gather other people who also are at a loss for what to do during holidays alone for a retro-themed gathering. The ’60s, the 2000s, or literally any other era that doesn’t encompass this godforsaken past year will do.

12. Catch up on the sleep you lost all year

If you have the option of hibernating ’till this whole thing blows over, even better.

13. Read your horoscope for 2021 and make some action points

Next year is astrologically complicated but ultimately looks more optimistic, and you can thank the Age of Aquarius for that. Check out what good things are on their way for you in your 2021 horoscope, and then write down the ways you manifest the reading into reality.

14. Write end-of-the-year gratitude letters to the people who helped you through 2020

You know the ones. Gratitude practices make us feel better, but expressing that gratitude to others is even better.

15. Make a highly a sardonic Christmas card

Nothing will top this ode to 2020, but you’re free to try.

16. Plan an extremely lavish trip for next year

Even if that just means adding a bunch of pictures of Austria to your Pinterest board or skimming through AirBnb listings in Vermont, remember that we’ll eventually be cleared to safely leave the house. Get yourself excited for when that time comes.

17. Book an experiential gift—for yourself

Sound bath? Tarot-card reading? There are plenty of fun and healing experiences you can now do virtually.

18. Call up someone older or younger than you who might be lonely

Intergenerational friendships can be a positive experience for both parties, so why not use this occasion to reach out to someone?

19. Do a home makeover that’ll keep you happy during these dark times

And to be clear, it can be a makeover that has nothing to do with the holidays and everything to do with intentionally sparking joy throughout this grim season.

20. See if you can complete a whole damn online course

What do you want to learn? How to be mentally fit? The ins and outs of the human body? The basics of cooking any meal that isn’t Kraft mac and cheese? World’s your oyster.

21. Adopt a dog

If you can foster, adopt, or even just spend some time with an animal this season, you stand to reap some serious benefits.

22. Wrap yourself up in a weighted blanket, make a mulled wine, and compare every single version of Little Women 

EVERY. SINGLE. VERSION. Could also be A Christmas Carol, or The Grinch—anything with multiple adaptations that makes you feel supremely cozy will do.

23. Watch that show that’s been recommended to you for six years

I’m specifically referring to Schitt’s Creek, which really is as great and joyful as everyone says.

24. Have a day of no tech

Having an untouchable day will reset you and reduce stress levels.

25. Put decorations into your hairstyle

Add in anything: Tinsel, ornaments, an Elf on the Shelf—whatever makes you feel like a human holiday decoration.

26. Have an unhinged kitchen dance party to The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping”

It’s the best Christmas song of all time (don’t @ me) because it has a cohesive storyline and a very happy ending. Rage hard to this ode of being alone for the holidays—I know I always do when it comes on.

27. Or listen to most obscure Christmas albums out there

I think about the Billy Idol Christmas album every single day of my life.

28. Find a winter wonderland atmosphere to project in the background of your day

There’s a very specific nook of visual ASMR videos that are descendants of the yule log and a very big part of my seasonal affective disorder self-care kit. I love this Christmas cafe, this quaint rainbow-lit house, and this stunning living room, complete with boughs of holly.

29. Watch Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square with a loved one on Netflix Party

It is bonkers, brilliant, and maybe one of the wildest rides I’ve been on. So, use one of the ways to watch movies online together with others, even when separated by physical distance, and enjoy.

30. Color code your bookshelf

My friend did this while coping with a cross-country mid-pandemic move, and what can I say? It absolutely brightens up any space.

31. Gather with some locals and explore friluftsliv

Grab your masks, strap on some snowshoes, find some friends, and lean into the Nordic tradition of embracing wintertime outdoor activities.

32. Re-center yourself, because you probably need it

A loving-kindness meditation might be a good one to fill yourself up with compassion and self-love.

33. Have yourself a merry little manicure

I’m typing this with mermaid green nails, and looking down at them does make me happier. So feel free to DIY your nail-care routine and go hard on the glitter.

34. Organize your spice rack

Well+Good news writer Kara Jillian Brown says she loves putting her spices in height order so she knows where everything is, so why not gift yourself the perfect pantry this season?

35. Re-create a family recipe that’s usually a staple this time of the year

For me, that’s always my YiaYia’s avgolemono soup, but I assume for you, it is not my YiaYia’s avgolemono soup. Whatever it is, it’ll help you connect to that lonely part of holidays spent alone that yearns for tradition.

36. Amp up your Baby Yoda content

He is literally perfect, and I’m not going to even dignify this with a larger elaboration.

37. Investigate volunteer opportunities for 2021, or volunteer throughout the season

As senior food writer Emily Laurence pointed out to me, doing so will make your spirits bright and raise others’ spirits, as well. Volunteering gives you purpose, extends your longevity, and makes the world a better place all in one altruistic swoop.

38. Do whatever you want, as long as you practice self-kindness while doing so

Whether you’re alone or not, the holidays are just another few days—if you’re not ultimately your happiest during them this year, don’t dwell. The sun will keep rising, and more days will follow.


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Toy Kingdom Christmas Deals

 

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Last-minute shopping?  Check out Toy Kingdom’s Christmas Deals at SM Megamall Fashion Hall Event Center.  Sale runs until January 6, 2020! 

** social distancing and other health standards will be observed.

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The Great Central Banking Experiment Has Failed

These days, most mainstream news reports are being monopolized by the pandemic, the covid vaccine and all the new rules and lockdowns that are being enforced across the Western world, and this near-obsessive focus comes at the expense of a lot other important developments. The last story that managed to “dethrone” covid from the headlines was the US Presidential election, and even that reporting was largely through the prism of the pandemic. And yet, the earth hasn’t actually stopped spinning and hugely important geopolitical and economic shifts are still happening and they’re certainly newsworthy, especially for investors. Chief among them is Brexit now: the long-awaited, much-debated and endlessly negotiated “divorce” between the UK and the EU.

After what seems like an eternity of official talks, political promises, countless deadlines and a lot of media fear-mongering, the majority of the British people who voted to leave the EU now finally hope to see their wish materialize. However, that hope is dimmed by the vast systemic opposition, by political horse-trading and by negotiations and compromises that threaten to render Brexit essentially just a symbolic and ceremonial gesture. The timing of it is also crucial. There’s a lot of pressure in the country, especially felt by small business owners and the millions that they used to employ. As a direct result of the lockdowns, the restrictions and the uncertainty over the rules and policies that change frequently and often quite inexplicably, the economy is on life support, barely kept afloat by massive money printing and spending. Given the complexity of the predicament that Britain currently finds itself in, I had a lot of questions about where it might be headed and why. I shared them all with my friend Godfrey Bloom, whose ability to speak plainly and cut through the nonsense I have found to be especially illuminating when it comes to complicated issues and tangled affairs. In response, he outlined his thoughts and outlook in the article below, touching on all the consequential developments and forces that are shaping the nation’s future and explaining their impact.

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Before entering the world of politics in 2004, Godfrey Bloom worked in the City of London for forty years and won fixed interest investment prizes. He served as a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for a decade and became widely known as a vocal opponent of government regulation and centralization. A firm euro-skeptic, Bloom was also heavily involved in the Brexit “Leave” campaign as an independent activist. He is an Associate Member of the Royal College of Defense Studies, holds the Territorial Decoration, Sovereign’s Medal, European Parliamentary Medal and Westminster Armed Forces Parliamentary Medal. He is also an author with seven books to his credit. He is married to one of Europe’s leading equine physiotherapists.

***** Godfrey Bloom *****

Having attained age seventy last year, I believed it would not be likely I would experience anything new in the way of politics or economics. Just more of the same but perhaps in a mutated form. How wrong I was.

Yet it is not shocks to the world economies that is new, but government responses. There will always be shocks, it is the way of humankind. They usually result in meaningless wars. These conflicts condemn millions of young men to fruitless death, while governments take away more and more freedom from ordinary people. Principles of ancient law and constitutions are abandoned. In this response I stick to Great Britain, but the USA and Europe are suffering in the same way.

As all Austrian School economists understand, the Coronavirus has just put the banking and fiat currency collapse on fast forward. Britain has a national debt of over two trillion pounds, nearer three when public sector pensions are accounted for, which they never are. The United Kingdom budget has not balanced since 1989. Amazingly, this phenomenon remains undebated in either parliament or mainstream media. The British general election last year was fought largely on Brexit, there was no discussion on government finances worthy of the name. Extraordinary. Incidentally, it was the same in America in November. Western democracies have electorates which simply believe the State has money to distribute at will, there is no correlation or causation between state spending, monetary degradation and debt. This is the result of two generations of welfarism: the  State commits to sponsoring the electorate from cradle to grave, health, pensions, social benefits lull people into a false sense of security. If I may use an analogy, it is very much like the driver of a modern motor car. Easy finance provides the vehicle, which is almost silent even at seventy miles an hour, quadrophonic sound envelopes the driver and passengers, airbags are all around, there is no sense of danger, what could go wrong? But sudden death or serious injury are but a heartbeat away. The economy is the same. There is never any cost-benefit analysis of legislation from Mainstream Media (MSM) or government. Dogma and faux science rule.

At present, the UK is in yet another lockdown. The economy is being crippled. 80% of the British wealth-creating sector is small or medium-size businesses and they are bearing the brunt of the Coronavirus State response. As ever, the public sector and big business remain largely unaffected. The virus has a mortality rate no different from the seasonal flu. Indeed, it is nowhere near as dangerous as the 1957 and 1968 flu virus. The recovery rate for the healthy under seventy-five years of age is 98%+. It is a horrid bug which carries away the old and the frail, as seasonal viruses have done since the beginning of time. 

Many economic pundits annoy me by talking of the damage the Coronavirus is doing to the economy, but it is the government response which is crucifying the economy. The laissez-faire establishment cocooned in their ivory towers seem to believe when and if the bug goes away everything will return to normal. The economy will eventually recover as economies always do, but many of our freedoms will go forever. The State rarely hands back power.

Already the Chancellor has exposed his lack of understanding of the enormity of the problem. I despair when he assumes he can tax the country back to prosperity. There is no hint of forthcoming cuts in public expenditure. Vanity projects are all-consuming, from aircraft carriers to high-speed railways to nowhere that nobody wants. The UK tax burden now is at its highest in fifty years. But nobody seems to really care. It is regarded somehow as an act of God.

Let me turn to Brexit.

The great lie worthy of Dr. Goebbels himself is the idea the European Union is about trade. A view sincerely held by the gullible. Having worked in the belly of the beast for ten years, I can confirm it is a political dream of a centralised European State, and it is a dream born with a religious fervour. If it were about trade the imbalance of 80:20 in the EU’s favour would secure a trade deal in an afternoon. It could have been agreed four years ago. Why was it not?

In Britain, both major parties want to remain in the EU, as do the civil service and MSM. So there has been four years of prevarication. Those with the levers of power cling relentlessly to the dream.  Even as the negotiations go to the wire, the fifth column in MSM and the Houses of Parliament are working around the clock to sabotage a return of the UK to self-government. Bear in mind Britain has not left the EU, it has merely withdrawn its commissioner and MEPs. The governing conservative party are deeply spiritually drawn to a European empire of provinces. The electoral mandate will almost certainly be betrayed in some way. Only a suicidal EU political response can deliver a true Brexit. It seems Britain at Christmas will be a Britain with a betrayed electorate, a broken economy an abandoned constitution and system of law, driven by hysteria over a pandemic which has so far killed fewer healthy people than annual road accidents.

The question always remains, cock-up or conspiracy? The latter seems more likely every day, as government decisions are inexplicable and independent medical scientific opinion has been suppressed. The majority of the population wander aimlessly about with ineffectual face masks and an air of growing despair.

Both President Eisenhower & Winston Churchill warned us of ‘perverted science’ and the power of the industrial, military and congressional complex. It has come to pass in spades.

As if the disastrous Coronavirus State response weren’t enough, we are also in the grip of faux climate science, driven by political fashion and emotion. Britain is committed to a net-zero carbon dioxide emissions programme. By 2030, we have been told, we must move to 100% electric cars. No government minister has been able to say how much this will cost or how the logistics will work, it seems the whole idea is based on the style of a school sixth form think tank. 

The hypothesis that man-made carbon dioxide will cause apocalyptic global warming is now beyond absurd. For twenty years, political group-think has built an industry of Greenie nonsense, totally detached from the real world. As ever, no cost-benefit analysis has been attempted, nor has there been any form of debate. ‘The science is settled’. Yet the two great global sponsors of this absurdity is not a scientist but a backward Swedish teenager and an eccentric British royal prince. This settled science is supported by international banks and celebrities bent on a sinister political platform for world government by the elite of the planet. 

Money printing doesn’t work, stimulus packages have constantly failed, national, corporate and personal debt is a number beyond human imagination. If you doubt me, can you really conceive $250 trillion? Look at European bank asset ratios and shadow banking liability. Deutsche Bank is reckoned to be owed €700 billion in shadow banking debt, while its stock price has collapsed 90%, and it is not alone. The stock market is blown out of all proportion to price-earnings ratios by historical standards.  Bond and stock yields are pathetic, negative interest rates abound. The war on cash continues. Western democracies have no option but to hyper-inflate money. They know no other way. Modern Monetary Theory is Keynesianism on stilts.

Fiat currencies have lost 80% of their value against gold this century. The world markets have already judged wealth preservation as gold and perhaps bitcoin. Bear in mind gold traders with the support of the SEC and central banks naked sell gold on a regular basis, my book “Magic of Banking” explains how. It is frankly criminal. There can be 500 :1 promissory note ratio to gold specie. When this chicanery ends, as end it must sooner or later, physical gold will accelerate to its real value as paper money collapses. The State will then attempt to confiscate privately held gold, as it has done from European medieval kings to 1930s America.  I called in my speeches to the EU parliament for bankers and politicians to be sent to prison to halt this outrage or the whole sorry game will start over again. The great central banking experiment has failed.

Yet still the British people slumber on, cowed, broken, dispirited, like a boxer on the ropes with no hope left. The last time we saw Britain in this condition was 1938. But by 1940, the country had turned around under the right leadership. The main difference today is the enemy within. Nazi Germany couldn’t close British pubs and businesses but today our own governments have. Bear in mind the enormity of the horror of British government telling us with whom we may spend Christmas and where we might travel. This cannot be about public health, but surely the much-heralded reset and new normal. 

Be afraid not of death, but loss of liberty.

Editorial & First Posting Credit: Claudio Grass, Hünenberg See, Switzerland https://claudiograss.ch/

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Your Guide to a Socially Distanced Holiday

Top Picks for Dec 23-Jan 3, from Christmas Light Displays to New Year’s Eve Party Boxes by Stranger EverOut Staff

COVID-safe IRL entertainment may seem thin on the ground these days, but if you need a break from your computer in the final stretch of 2020, we have lots of ideas that comply with social distancing guidelines. Read our picks for general activities and safe in-person events through the new year below, from restaurants to visit before they close (like the Charles Mudede-approved Lecosho) to lucky foods to seek out on New Year’s (like the toshikoshi soba noodles from Kamonegi), and from places to book a local getaway (like the Easy Street Records beach house on Alki) to a new short story dispenser at Beacon Hill’s the Station.

HOLIDAY LIGHTS & SPECTACLES

Check out COVID-safe holiday light displays, which are still going strong and offering much-needed cheer in a socially distanced manner. We’ve rounded up all the Seattle-area options for 2020 here, from the Washington State Fair’s Holiday Magic Drive-Thru to Seattle Center’s Campus Luminata to the Woodland Park Zoo’s WildLanterns, and we’ve also listed some highlights below. Most displays will be up through the new year, but note that many are also closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Highlights:

Candy Cane Lane
1920s-era Tudor homes in Ravenna have been boasting impressive light displays every holiday season since 1949. Drive along Northeast Park Road taking in Nutcracker-themed havens complete with sleighs, reindeer, sugar plum fairies, and blow-up candy canes galore.
NE Park Road, Ravenna (through Jan 1) 

Dazzle
Stroll down a pleasant lane in Maple Valley adorned with lights and photo-worthy wonderland displays. 
21401 244th Ave SE, Maple Valley (through Jan 3)

Downtown Holiday Lights & Delights
More than 80,000 light bulbs assembled in the likeness of presents, arches, and trees will make your visits downtown as merry as possible during an ongoing pandemic. Also on deck this year is winter wonderland-themed augmented reality experiences set up on sidewalks and plazas around downtown, which require a smartphone.
Westlake Park, Downtown (through Jan 9)

Fantasy Lights
Spanaway Park will bring back its festive light displays for drive-through spectators to enjoy.
Spanaway Park (through Jan 3)

Holiday Magic Drive-Thru
The Washington State Fair is bringing a host of yuletide activities to its Puyallup grounds that visitors can enjoy from the safety of their cars. From light displays to fair food to a prize-bearing scavenger hunt to cheery music on SANTA FM 101.5, there’s lots to choose from to warrant a mini road trip. You can even add Snowflake 3D glasses to make the displays look even more magical.
Washington State Fair Events Center, Puyallup (through Jan 3)

The Lights of Christmas
In place of their annual Christmas festival, Stanwood will host a drive-through affair boasting over one million lights in dazzling displays, including their beloved light tunnel, a Cascade Splendor mountain scene, a Nativity, Santa and his reindeer, and more, plus costumed characters. Once you arrive (with tickets purchased in advance), tune in to LOC Radio 101.9 FM to enjoy Christmas music with radio host Bruce the Spruce. If you want a snack for the journey, you can order fresh-hot mini-donuts and a hot beverage from your car.
Warm Beach Camp & Conference Center, Stanwood (through Dec 30)

Lusio
Nine local artists have created light installations around Pioneer Square, viewable in a COVID-safe manner throughout the holidays.
Pioneer Square (through Jan 19)

Schitt’s Creek Rosebud Motel Replica
This adorable handmade mini-replica in the front yard of local fan Richard Knowles’s house on Queen Anne’s 10th Avenue West, mimics the Rosebud Motel from the comedy series about a wealthy family who loses all their money and relocates to a run-down motel in the middle of nowhere (all six seasons of which are streaming on Netflix). It even comes complete with a festive wreath hanging on the door of the office, behind which we imagine a miniature Stevie resides. «I was just bored with the whole COVID thing,» Knowles told the Seattle Times. “It’s something to do, really. I’ve always been kind of artsy. It just worked out.» It won’t be there forever, so mask up and drive or walk by in a socially distanced fashion.
10th Ave W & West Bothwell Street, Queen Anne (ongoing)

15 Seconds of Stardom
This virtual experience gives you the power to create a 15-second custom light show through the Seattle Star (the giant star on the outside of the Bon Marché Building that used to house Macy’s) for $15. Every dollar of which will benefit homeless families through Mary’s Place.
Westlake Park, Downtown (through Jan 6)

Snowflake Lane
Every year, downtown Bellevue turns into a winter wonderland not just for one night but for a whole dang month, with (fake) falling snow, jolly music, and twinkling lights every night until Christmas Eve. Don’t expect a marching band this year (mouths blowing into trumpets during COVID = bad), but do expect a perfectly lovely, socially distanced walk- or drive-through.
Bellevue Collection (through Dec 24)

Tacoma Light Trail
A free tail of light art will cheer up the downtown Tacoma streets every night through the end of January. 
Downtown Tacoma (Dec 30-Jan 24)

WildLanterns
The Woodland Park Zoo is taking a more realistic approach to its beloved annual holiday light display by lining its paths with glowing lanterns in the likeness of tigers, snow leopards, aquatic creatures, zebras, and other exotic animals.
Woodland Park Zoo, Phinney (through Jan 17; closed Mondays & Dec 24-25)

Winter Glow at PowellsWood
Experience 12 nights of socially distanced winter magic as the Federal Way garden lights up with holiday displays.
PowellsWood Garden, Federal Way (through Dec 23)

LAST-MINUTE SHOPPING

Finish your last-minute holiday shopping. Christmas is here, and the shipping deadlines have passed to get gifts online from many Seattle retailers in time for the holiday. Luckily, even in this weird year of COVID-19, many of our favorite local shops are open for in-person shopping, so you can stop by and get your hands on the perfect gift. Several local restaurants, bars, and bakeries are also offering curated holiday gift boxes of their favorite products, which make a great gift for the hard-to-shop-for person on your list. You can also check out our holiday gift guide—online orders may arrive after Christmas, but in the times we live in, we don’t think it will hurt to extend the festive season. For a cute in-person pickup option, the Wing Luke Museum has an adorable gift set with proceeds benefiting Mary’s Place and their No Child Sleeps Outside Campaign—which you can also support at the Holiday Care-A-Van events on the 23rd and 31st, where you’ll find Dick’s, Trophy Cupcakes, and Anthony’s food trucks.

Noteworthy events and markets:

Historically Hip Artisan Market
Three Issaquah locations—the Historic Shell Station, the Issaquah Train Depot, and the old Rogue Brewery will play host to local artisans slinging wares for holiday shoppers.
Issaquah (through Dec 30)

Holiday Boozar
Need a cup of cheer? Browse Salt & Iron’s boozy take on the holiday bazaar, with festive to-go cocktails, curated wine packages, cocktail kits, and other potent potables, plus partnerships with local artists and vendors.
Salt & Iron, Edmonds (through Dec 31)

Japantown Jingle 2020
Count down to Kurisumasu with gifts, beer, and snacks in Japantown.
Japantown, Chinatown-International District (through Dec 24)

Last-Minute Local Holiday Bazaar
Pick up last-minute stocking stuffers for the natural wine and bubbly fans in your life. 
Molly’s Bottle Shop, Ballard (Thurs Dec 24)

Poindexter’s Good Cheer Shop
Stop in to Poindexter’s Coffee for a market with natural wine, holiday spirits, local gifts, vinyl, and even a «Santa phone.» 
Poindexter Coffee, University District (through Dec 24)

Small Works Holiday Sale
Buy little things from resident Gallery 110 artists for the holidays. 
Gallery 110, Pioneer Square (through Dec 26)

OTHER CHRISTMASY IDEAS

Have a Mariah Carey Christmas. Ever since the debut of 1994’s Merry Christmas and its smash hit, «All I Want for Christmas Is You,» Mariah Carey has preserved her reign as the definitive matriarch of the Yuletide season (no offense to Mrs. Claus or the woman who gave birth to Santa) by putting out album-length renditions of holiday originals and standards every few years, embellished with her signature sultry grace notes and pitch-perfect whistles. This year’s Apple TV+ holiday special and accompanying album is arguably the most energetic one yet, seeing Mimi and big-name special guests (like Jennifer Hudson and Ariana Grande in «Oh Santa!«) bopping around a candy cane wonderland in sparkly outfits and reminding us what Christmas cheer looks like. As another gift to her fans in this otherwise bleak year, the pop chanteuse has put out a memoir (wherein she explains her affinity for the holidays) and spearheaded a cookie company with a ghost kitchen in Seattle that delivers comforting flavors like chocolate chunk and gingerbread right to your door. In conclusion, if your holiday spirit has been tarnished by the events of 2020, the Queen of Christmas’s jolly offerings may be just what the doctor ordered. 

Get Chinese takeout for Christmas. Dining on Chinese takeout on Christmas is a time-honored tradition, and best of all, it’s one that can easily be observed at your small socially distanced celebration this year without any major modifications. Former Stranger staffer Eli Sanders has written in the past about his go-to spot of choice, Shanghai Garden. Other places worth your consideration this year: the dim sum mainstay Jade Garden, the hallowed Hong Kong-style noodle institution Mike’s Noodle House, the beloved dumpling destination Little Ting’s Dumplings, the standout Chinese barbecue joint Kau Kau BBQ, and Seattle’s oldest Chinese restaurant, the Bruce Lee-approved Tai Tung. Looking for more restaurants that are open? These spots are offering takeout meals for the holidays.

Watch virtual holiday shows. Three beloved Seattle holiday specials have acclimated to the virtual realm quite nicely thanks to EverOut’s streaming platform StreamLocal, and they’re a perfect change of pace from your standard Christmas movie roster. The first is the Dina Martina Christmas Show (Dec 24 & 26-27), which The Stranger‘s Chase Burns has favorably likened to a «Christmastime flu» (and we hope it’s the only flu you get this year). Also on the streams is Scott Shoemaker’s War on Christmas (on demand through Jan 5), a reverie of festive songs and dances with special guests like Ade, Waxie Moon, Mandy Price, and Fageddy Randy. Kitten N’ Loui’s Jingle All the Gay (through Jan 2) rounds out the lineup with a pre-recorded performance of queer-tastic comfort. If you stan Seattle drag legends BenDeLaCreme and Jinkx Monsoon, be sure to also check out the Jinkx & DeLa Holiday Special streaming on Hulu.

Sip some eggnog. Stranger contributor Jordan Michelman writes, «Eggnog is so hot right now.» He explores five fine new versions of the boozy Christmas favorite, including offerings from L’Oursin, Liberty, Damn the Weather, Hood Famous Bakeshop, and Tacoma’s En Rama. Nog not for you? Check out our complete guide to festive winter drinks, including the Miracle on 2nd pop-up at Rob Roy, or our guide to restaurants and bars with covered and heated patio seating (just make sure to double-check hours with places directly, as they may differ around the holidays).

Other notable events:

O, Wonder! A Seattle Shakespeare Interactive Adventure
Who says the works of England’s most famous bard should be confined to the theater? Seattle Shakespeare Company’s COVID-friendly scavenger hunt invites you to complete Shakespeare-related challenges in pursuit of prizes.
Various locations (through Jan 3)

Santa Snow Globe
Dan Kemmis, affectionately known as Seattle Santa, posts up in an inflatable snow globe on a street corner in Greenwood for socially distanced visits. He also makes video calls.
Greenwood Avenue North and North 76th Street (through Dec 23)

Suncadia Winterfest
Take holiday photos in Santa’s Corner (Santa will be there in spirit), shop from a virtual holiday bazaar, donate nonperishable food in exchange for an ice-skate rental, enjoy cozy warm drinks, and visit a Candy Cane Forest Tree Lot at Suncadia’s COVID-modified holiday affair.
Suncadia Resort, Cle Elum (through Jan 3)

NEW YEAR’S EVE & NEW YEAR’S DAY

Pick up some sparkling wine and last-minute goods for New Year’s Eve. In a time where merriment is hard to come by, the departure of 2020 calls for an extra-decadent sendoff. If you’re looking to go big, pick up some suitably festive bottles of fizzy wine. The gourmet cupcake bakery and party supply shop Trophy Cupcakes has sparkling cocktail and mocktail kits complete with edible glitter and flowers, sprinkles, glitter swizzle sticks, cocktail napkins, and even macarons for a garnish, as well as a selection of festive sparkling wines and Töst (a nonalcoholic sparkling beverage made with white tea, white cranberry, and ginger). The local wine club Crunchy Red Fruit also has a «bubble box» with three bottles, and Chophouse Row’s recently opened natural wine shop Wide Eyed Wines has plenty of minimal-intervention sparklers in stock. Plus, Pagliacci will let you add a bottle of Prosecco from the Pike Place staple DeLaurenti to your pizza delivery or pickup order, and the macaron maven Lady Yum has a champagne gift box with a bottle of bubbly and six macarons of your choice. For something more interactive, check out Stoneburner’s virtual champagne cocktail class to learn more about effervescent classics like the French 75 and the Seelbach. 

Grab takeout for New Year’s Eve. We know, you’ve already heard the now-familiar refrain: This holiday season won’t be the same, but no matter what form your responsible festivities take, you can still add a little glimmer to the occasion with comforting and luxurious meals for takeout from local restaurants. Check out our list of places to grab takeout for New Year’s Eve.

Find lucky foods for an auspicious 2021. Eating dishes thought to bring luck for the coming year on New Year’s Eve or Day is a popular custom in many cultures, and it’s one that may hold particular appeal this year for obvious reasons—nobody wants to risk a repeat of 2020. Fittingly, some local restaurants are offering meals designed to bring good fortune. Chef Mutsuko Soma’s lauded Japanese restaurant Kamonegi is offering its famed handmade soba noodles in takeout toshikoshi sets for the occasion—in Japan, eating toshikoshi soba (“year-passing noodles”) on New Year’s Eve is thought to impart longevity and prosperity, in part because of soba’s association with the remarkably resilient buckwheat plant and in part because it’s believed that the noodles, which are easily cut, aid in severing the hardship of the previous year. The Black arts space Wa Na Wari is also serving up vegan black-eyed peas, collard greens, and cornbread on New Year’s Day, all considered lucky foods in Southern culture—the peas represent coins, the collard greens represent paper money, and the cornbread represents gold. And finally, «pasta artist» Linda Miller Nicholson, known for her vibrant plant-dyed pasta creations on her Instagram account Salty Seattle, will be offering a virtual «good luck pasta class» featuring a festive black and sparkly gold pasta dish filled with sausage and lentils, which are traditionally eaten on New Year’s Eve in Italy for good luck—the lentils symbolize coins and are believed to bring prosperity. 

Have dinner and a show at home. If New Year’s doesn’t feel the same to you without getting dressed up and going out, settle for the next best thing: takeout dinner packages that include a livestreamed performance. The Paragon Supper Club is offering a three-course meal of orange and date salad, rabbit à la moutarde with vichy carrots  and rutabaga puree, and croquembouche for dessert, which you’ll enjoy during a live performance from Lady A, the Evan Captain Trio, and Lauren Napier. The «culinary cabaret» Can Can also has a New Year’s Eve Party Pack with a meal for two, a bottle of Cristal champagne, crystal-embellished pasties and a bra (so you can put on your own saucy show), and weekend access to a virtual Can Can show like Wonderland. And while Cafe Nordo‘s holiday-box experience is sold out, their mystery-solving Do Not Disturb at-home experience is available for pre-order. 

Start the new year with a Polar Plunge or a First Day Hike. The eternally popular resolution of spending more time outdoors is easier when you don’t have to worry about whether or not the stranger next to you in the park is carrying a deadly virus, but two New Year’s Day traditions endure in social distancing-friendly settings. Instead of gathering in droves on the shores of Lake Washington, there are two virtual Polar Plunges (an annual tradition wherein you sacrifice your body heat for a Commemorative Polar Bear Badge of Courage) happening this year. The first, from Seattle Parks & Rec, includes a kit with said Badge of Courage, «Polar Bear Vitamins» (which we assume means candy), instant hot cocoa, a celebratory noisemaker, and instructions on how to complete a plunge in your area. Another, which comes courtesy of the folks who usually host an event at Lake Sammamish State Park, invites you to find your nearest water source—even if it’s your bathtub or your garden hose—and submit photos of your icy experience. Not in the mood for that? First Day Hikes, which traditionally consist of guided treks but will instead encourage participants to mask up and go alone or in their quarantine pods this year, are a far drier alternative. Check out this list of our favorite trails in Washington, or head to your nearest state park for free admission on January 1. For a more local route, you could also take advantage of Lake Washington Blvd’s walking paths, which will remain open through January 3. As you know by now, be vigilant about keeping at least six feet of distance from others and wearing a mask if you leave home.

Queue up virtual New Year’s Eve events. Staying home on NYE? Same. Our guide to the best things to do from home through January 3 includes things to do online on December 31, including the Space Needle’s virtual light show

NON-HOLIDAY PICKS & HAPPENINGS

Try some of the year’s most noteworthy new restaurants. Opening a restaurant is a truly impressive feat even during the best of times. Despite the fact that this year was unbelievably challenging for the restaurant industry, many bold restaurant owners found creative new ways to survive shortly after opening, or even did the unthinkable and went forward with opening in the midst of a pandemic. As you’re reflecting on the year, why not take a chance to celebrate some of these unlikely additions to the Seattle food scene? Though it seems like decades ago now, Melissa Miranda’s celebrated Filipinx restaurant Musang (named restaurant of the year by Seattle Met), the inventive Capitol Hill izakaya Rondo, and the cozy Beacon Hill natural wine bar Petite Soif all opened at the beginning of the year, just before the pandemic. Over the summer, they were joined by the fried chicken and soft serve spot Milk Drunk and the Fremont seafood restaurant Local Tide. More recently, chef Kristi Brown and her son Damon Bomar opened their dream «Seattle soul food» restaurant Communion in the Central District, and the highly anticipated wood-fired pizza spot Light Sleeper recently arrived in Chophouse Row. Pick one or a few to try and raise a glass to these small businesses’ admirable fortitude in the face of adversity.

…Or visit these restaurants before they close. Sadly, not every restaurant made it through the many trials and tribulations of 2020. Both the craft brewery Populuxe Brewing and the German pub Feierabend will close for good on December 23, so beer lovers will want to high-tail it over there to pay their respects before it’s too late. The longtime Harbor Steps favorite Lecosho is also set to close at the end of the month. Charles Mudede once penned a love letter to the restaurant, writing, «More recently, I stopped by Lecosho on my birthday. I wanted to eat there all by myself. That is how much I dig this place. I thought that the best way to commemorate the day I was born was not with other people talking about this and that but in the silence of consuming this restaurant’s rich foods and wines.» Don’t miss your last chance to pick up some takeout and have a similarly meditative solo feast.

Book yourself a staycation at a local getaway. Taking a holiday somewhere far, far away is more tempting than ever right now, but it’s still a thing of the past (and hopefully the near-ish future). For now, set your sights on a nearby destination for a refreshing change of pace and something to look forward to in the new year. Right on Alki Beach in West Seattle, music lovers might enjoy a trip to Easy Street Records‘ themed beach cottage with views of Elliott Bay and a living room complete with music memorabilia and a reading nook with a record station. There are also two grills outside if you’re in the mood for a winter BBQ. Over in Eastern Washington in Orondo, the Underground Hygge «earth house» is ready to make your hobbit dreams come true with rounded archways and entrances, a stone fireplace, and sweet views of the Columbia River Gorge. Nestled among old growth firs on the shore of Whidbey Island, the Captain Whidbey Inn—the «unofficial official lodge» of Ebey’s Landing National Forest Reserve—puts you in the heart of the Olympic Rain Shadow (a region that magically experiences far drier and sunnier weather than its nearby Seattle neighbor). Other honorable mentions: the beachside, Port Townsend-adjacent Chevy Chase Beach Cabins, which curiously have nothing to do with the National Lampoon star, and the charming riverside TreeHouse Point, just south of Seattle in Fall City. Capitol Hill boutique Glasswing, which Seattle Met has described as looking «like the apartment of your coolest friend» is also planning to open a gorgeous, cozy cabin in Granite Falls soon—if that’s your thing, message them to be among the first to find out when reservations are open.

Play video games with a local connection. There’s something to be said for fighting off wild cougars and unlocking hidden treasures in the valleys of the Old West (that’s the gist of Red Dead Redemption 2, right?), but there’s a whole world of video games set in the Pacific Northwest that you might not know about, and seeing as self-isolation remains paramount this long winter, now is the perfect time to add them to your rotation. In the Portland-set (and Portland Mercury-approved) exploring game Gone Home, praised by the New York Times as «the greatest video game love story ever told,» you arrive at your childhood home after a year abroad to find that your family and most of their belongings are nowhere to be found, leaving you to rummage around and pick up the pieces. Ever had the black forest cake at Regent Bakery in Redmond? You’ll get a pixelated version of it as a reward in 2007’s Portal. Taking place in the same sci-fi cyberpunk Seattle universe as the Shadowrun tabletop RPG, Shadowrun Returns takes you to Pike Place, the South Seattle docks, and other familiar sites in pursuit of the Emerald City Ripper. There’s also the zombie survival game Days Gone and the supernatural Life is Strange, both set in Oregon, the Seattle-set Coffee Talk, and the Seattle-designed Among Us. For more ideas, The Stranger‘s resident gaming expert Matt Baume is a valuable source. Also, while it’s not local, we’d be remiss not to mention the Animal Crossing winter update. So many glowing reindeer!

Check out local short fiction projects. The next time you stop by Beacon Hill’s beloved cafe and community center the Station, you’ll notice a slim, kiosk-like machine near the entrance. It’s not a luxury trash receptacle. It’s Seattle’s first short story dispenser, a project dreamed up by French company Short Edition and made possible by the Seattle Public Library. Described in press materials as a «contactless story-generating experience,» it has you wave your hands over the buttons and choose a story with an estimated reading time of one, three, or five minutes. Once you’ve made your selection by an emerging or established writer, your free story is printed on BPA-free paper to read while you wait for your coffee. Short Edition also accepts submissions, which means, if you’re lucky, your own work could be featured in a kiosk in another part of the world. Have a story related to your experience during COVID? Consider sharing it with SPL’s COVID-19 Community Collection, or read others’ submissions. For experiential storytelling, check out Wa Na Wari’s outdoor Story Porch installations that explore gentrification in the Central District. If you’re looking for more kid-friendly options, follow a trail of outdoor posted pages in Burien Town Square Park. 

Take in outdoor art on a socially distanced walk. While museums remain closed, there’s another way to admire the fruits of local artists’ labor that doesn’t involve a computer screen: free outdoor art! Seattle is lucky to be chock-full of it, from the peculiar statues of Vladimir Lenin and a giant troll in Fremont to painted panoramas in Ballard (whose Storefront Mural Project adds stories and local history to the outside of local brick and mortars) to the gorgeous structures by Teresa Fernandez and Richard Serra in the Olympic Sculpture Park. Up north, Whidbey Island’s peaceful Earth Sanctuary Sculpture Garden features towering, clean-lined stone structures in a 72-acre nature reserve. If you want to add a festive note to your journey, queue up a Seattle-specific Christmas playlist and bop along to tracks by local greats like Jimi Hendrix, SassyBlack, Brandie Carlile, and Dude York.

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Pirlo: Juventus had the wrong attitude against Fiorentina

Juventus-Verona-Pirlo.jpg

Juventus coach Andrea Pirlo admits his side approached their match with Fiorentina with the wrong attitude after falling 3-0.

The Bianconeri fell in Serie A for the first time this season in spectacular fashion, with Juan Cuadrado’s early red card complicating matters for the home side.

“We started with the wrong attitude, so there can be no alibi,” he told Sky Sport Italia. “If you do that, then you end up in bad situations.

“It’s possible you can start thinking about your holidays in the last game before Christmas, but we were sluggish and once we were reduced to 10-men it was tough to come back.”

Juventus saw two penalty appeals waved away which prompted Pavel Nedved to leave the stands.

“The pictures are clear,” he added. “There was the sending off and maybe there were other incidents that could have gone our way, but I won’t comment on them.

“When you are left with 10-men there isn’t much to talk about in terms of skill and tactics. We showed something in the second half but the episodes decided the rest.”

The loss means Juventus could lose further ground in the chase for the Scudetto with AC Milan and Inter set to play on Wednesday.

“Now we will have our holidays and recharge our batteries,” he stated. “Then we will restart and look at the mistakes we’ve made, where we can improve and continue forward.

“We think we are a strong team, but if Milan and Inter are up there it means they’ve done better than us so far. You can’t deny that they are now the favourites.”

The post Pirlo: Juventus had the wrong attitude against Fiorentina first appeared on Forza Italian Football.

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1 Year After Drake Hotel Fire, Henn. Co. Still Struggles With Lack Of Affordable Housing

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — All that was left after the Francis Drake Hotel fire in Minneapolis in 2019 had to be demolished. The Christmas Day disaster left hundreds of people without a home.

Donations for those displaced immediately poured in. The Red Cross helped find temporary emergency shelter in the days after, and Hennepin County was tasked with finding the families new places to live. Julia Welle Ayres is the county’s manager of housing development and finance.

“Not only seeing all of those families just displaced on Christmas Day, at a time that should be full of hope and comfort and warmth, and then in addition thinking about, ‘What will we do without these housing units going forward?’” Welle Ayres said.

She says the Drake Hotel fire brought attention to the dire need for affordable housing. She says there are more than 70,000 households in Hennepin County that have extremely-low incomes, but there are only 14,000 affordable units available. It’s an even bigger challenge in a year of a pandemic.

“The residents that we’re focusing on right now are those that are vulnerable to complications from COVID-19,” Welle Ayres said.

minneapolis fire

(credit: CBS)

The county doled out $21 million in CARES Act funding that helped 7,000 low-income households keep their homes during the pandemic. Welle Ayres says the county learned a lot from the functionality and loss of the Drake Hotel, and is now focusing more on acquiring and developing more properties that offer single-room occupancy.

“The Drake was a rare jewel that provided deeply-affordable housing, for people who are able to pay modest rents and be able to have just independent, dignified housing for it,” she said.

Fire investigators determined the fire originated from a unit in the complex, but did not determine an exact cause.

Hennepin County was able to find housing for almost all of the residents displaced.

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