Category Archives: Dusty’s Posts

Lessons from Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I love the new Star Wars movies, but one question had been frustrating the heck out of me. If the Rebellion defeated the Empire in The Return of the Jedi, then what happened to turn them into the Resistance against the First Order? Why didn’t the victory stay victorious?

If you’re not a Star Wars fan and don’t know what I’m talking about (which seems impossible, but the galaxy is a vast and mysterious thing), the movies are a classical fiction construct, which is to say they are a display of the strange and the familiar. Very old ideas about right and wrong are presented through the prism of courageous androids, crystal critters and a mystical energy that connects all action in the universe. Yes, Chewbacca is a 200-year-old, 8-foot-tall, spaceship engineer/pilot that can’t speak and yet communicates perfectly, and he’s also the same thing as a useful dog. Stepping into the Star Wars stories is like eating a new seafood dish from your favorite chef. You have no idea what it’s going to taste like, but you’re certain that it will be close to what you love.

I watched The Last Jedi yesterday, and while I won’t spoil anything, I will say that it is fantastic. Some people dinged The Force Awakens for simply repackaging the exact same story beats George Lucas’s first film in the series, A New Hope.  To them, I say, “I know.” These movies are not saying anything new, and that’s the point. Maybe there is only one story, and Star Wars just happens to be our favorite version of it.


John Steinbeck, the author of many great novels, wrote this in East of Eden: “I believe that there is one story in the world, and only one…Humans are caught—in their lives, in their thoughts, in their hungers and ambitions, in their avarice and cruelty, and in their kindness and generosity too—in a net of good and evil…There is no other story. A man, after he has brushed off the dust and chips of his life, will have left only the hard, clean questions: Was it good or was it evil? Have I done well—or ill?”

It’s amazing how we as humans can complicate issues. The purpose of making decisions is to solve problems, but we like making problems more than we like solving them. Today, my wife will ask me what I want to do for lunch. She’s asking me to solve the problem of being hungry, and I will consider money, value, geographic distance, Yelp ratings, the NFL schedule and my personal opinions about her personal opinions. Then I will shrug and say, “What do you feel like?” A sensible approach to our problem of needing food to live would be to pick a perfectly healthy meal with the proper amount of calories considered for our mass and daily activity level, and eat that every day for the rest of our lives. No human would go for that, but why not? Because the problem isn’t that we’re hungry. The problem is that we’re human, and we’ll get hungry again.


In The Last Jedi, Rey and Kylo Ren represent the next generation of the light and dark sides of the force. Luke Skywalker trains them both at different times, and he teaches that the force is the connective essence between all things. He says, I’m paraphrasing, “To think that you own the force is vanity.” This is the essential difference between the dark side and the Jedi. The Sith Lords of the dark side use the force for selfish gain. The Jedi use the force to help others. But there’s always balance. Kylo Ren, Sith Lord, comes from the legendary bloodline of Skywalker and Solo and wields the dark side. Because he exists, the heroin Rey must come from nowhere to wield an equal power for light. Just like Yoda and the Emperor, Darth Maul and Obi One, Darth Vader and Luke, there is Kylo and Rey. The Star Wars rage forever.

The cynic says it’s a rehashed story. It’s a point Yoda would love. Right they are, and wrong they are. It’s a retold story, but it will never be tired. It was over two thousand years ago when Jesus of Nazareth told us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” In the 1960s, Martin Luther King Jr. told us, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” In 2017, Star Wars tells us, “That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.” Star Wars story is retold because it’s a story that every generation has to tell. Because there will always be bad men, and because telling a story isn’t just about exposing evil men, it’s about providing hope. That’s why we have both news and art, because the problem is we’re human. There will always be bad things, and because they exist, a good thing must wield an equal power. Star Wars is here, with it’s fun and entertainment, to remind us that we can have hope in the world.


A few weeks ago, I read a book called Here I Am by Jonathan Safran For. It was excellent. In it, a character named Max Bloch watches his parents’ marriage crumble to a divorce. Max is Jewish. He’s also just a kid. It’s not until years later, long after his parents divorce, that he gives a speech at the “boy becomes a man” ceremony that is Bar Mitzvah, that he processes the meaning of it. He retells Genesis 32 in which Jacob wrestles an angel in demand of a blessing. Jacob wins, and God promises to make Jacob into a great nation. God renames Jacob to Israel, which translates to “wrestles with God.”

Then Max continues, “Jacob wrestled with God for the blessing. He wrestled with Esau for the blessing. He wrestled with Isaac for the blessing, with Laban for the blessing, and in each case he eventually prevailed. He wrestled because he recognized that the blessings were worth the struggle. He knew that you only get to keep what you refuse to let go of.”

Here’s another thing I kept thinking about during The Last Jedi: if they don’t keep making Star Wars movies, then what happens to Star Wars? As a story, it has a moral about good and bad. That moral still and always exists, but Star Wars itself exists as a story, and a story exists for the moral. If the moral of these new Star Wars movies is that the story of good versus evil is eternal, then doesn’t the most honest version of Star Wars have to be eternal? If the force always seeks balance, then the force must always exist.

Max Bloch explains further, “It’s easy to be close, but almost impossible to stay close. Think about friends. Think about hobbies. Even ideas. They’re close to us—sometimes so close we think they are a part of use—and then, at some point, they aren’t close anymore. They go away. Only one thing can keep something close over time: holding it there. Grappling with it. Wrestling it to the ground, as Jacob did with the angel, and refusing to let go. What we don’t wrestle, we let go go. Love isn’t the absence of struggle. Love is the struggle.”


The dark side will always exist. There will always be poverty and racism and Harvey Weinstein and the need for lunch, because humans always have the same problems again. That’s the way the world is. Franz Kafka said, “In the fight between you and the world, side with the world.” A man alone cannot beat the world. A lesson in Star Wars is that giving in to rage and hate is the quick path to power. If you love others, you never ascend to power. You give your power away. You don’t die, you just fade away. A man shouldn’t side with the world or conquer the world, he should fight it for his entire life because he loves it.

So, if the Rebellion defeated the Empire in The Return of the Jedi, what happened to turn them into the Resistance against the First Order? I’m not asking that question anymore. Asking that question would mean that I don’t understand Star Wars, and my friends, I understand Star Wars. It’s not about pointing out that Han Solo doesn’t know that a parsec is a measure of distance, it’s about believing that the Millennium Falcon can make the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. The good guys are the always on the bottom because anything worth having is something we must fight for. It’s something we wrestle with. The Empire is the First Order. Order is peace. The Rebellion is the Resistance. Love is struggle.

It Does to Me: A Justification for Doing What You Want

Hey, come on try a little
Nothing is forever
There’s got to be something better than
In the middle

“One Headlight” by The Wallflowers

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” That was a question I remember adults asking me in my elementary school years.

“A doctor,” I’d answer, and that answer always seemed to appease the adults. If one of them had the temerity to ask which kind of doctor, I’d shrug honestly and say, “I don’t know.” This second part never seemed satisfactory, but it did usually end the inquisition. Sometimes I’d exchange “doctor” for “lawyer” and get the same results. The funny part is that even as a kid, I knew I was lying. I knew that these words—doctor and lawyer—had no connection to anything I cared about. Though the words did earn the subtle admiration of grown ups. They heard me say those words and they looked at me differently, like I was going places.

I didn’t know it then, but this common exchange was teaching me some things. One was that most people, myself apparently included, are pretentious. The second lesson was that words changed how people felt. That second lesson was more interesting.

Phantom armies clash on the battlefields of limbo. This strange, last outpost of existence. The forgotten versus the yet to be. Like some half-remembered dream. All the rules of existence are being broken.

“Captain Adam!” Superman shouts. “These people need our help!”

“…Transparent void…Eternal…We’re so small…Yet so significant. How can it matter so much?” Captain Adam wonders.

“It does to me!”

That’s from Superman Beyond #2, an issue in Final Crisis, the DC Comics miniseries written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Doug Mahnke. Morrison writes with joyful complexity. Yes, this is a story about Superman saving the day because that is what Superman does, but it’s also a reflection of Biblical, messianic promises. It’s also a meta text for Hamlet’s most famous quandary of being. It’s also a distillation of the moral sojourns that defined cold war era comics. It’s Shakespeare and Alan Moore and something sillier and more specific. It’s uniquely Morrison, and like all the best stuff, his inspiration contains multitudes. His style is singular. Some people think he’s saying a lot of nonsense, but others, like me, would choose to read his style over nearly any other comic book writer.

I’ve loved comic books for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is frantically explaining to my Uncle Richard that Batman actually got married to Catwoman!⁠1 God bless Uncle Richard, he cared. Back then, I thought he cared because a hero marrying a villain was revelatory news. Now I know he only cared because he was good man granting respect in the only language that a child understands: the adult cares too. When something greater cares for something smaller, the smaller thing feels a portion of what it means to be greater. Because Uncle Richard respected my childhood fascination, and because he was my coolest uncle⁠2 (I wanted to be like him when I grew up), I was allowed to love comic books for the rest of my life. I’m so glad that I have that. I’m 32, and it’s an incredible time to be a lifelong comic book nerd. Superheroes dominate pop culture. Ta-Nehesi Coates—perhaps the most influential writer in America—is writing the Black Panther comic book, while one of the best young directors in the world, Ryan Coogler, is making the Black Panther movie. This stuff probably shouldn’t matter that much, and yet, it does to me.

Ever since cancer, I have felt burdened by the concept of mission. It’s depressingly difficult to be okay with the mundane necessity of making a living. Why am I here? What am I doing? This is probably standard fare for a mid life crisis or types of existential philosophy, but I’m not trying to classify the feeling. It is what it is, and it seeps into everything I consume. I look at my strengths, trying to take stock of my being as a whole, and I try to decide what I should do with my abilities.

This concern of mine, the concept of mission, seeps into everything. What does God want me to do? I guess I should get right with him. How should I vote for President? I definitely will approach politics differently. What’s for lunch? I should remember to care about feeling well more than feeling good. Health, faith, and judgment coalesce to make me worry about what the heck am I doing with time? Time is the only honest currency, and it worries me.

This concern sat in the back of my brain while I was reading Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run. In one section, he talks about how a creative mentor showed him the path to success. As a young man who’d been performing since high school, Bruce was tired of grinding out a living in the bar/club scene. He’d seen enough to know that he wasn’t going to outshine other bootstrap bands trying to get recognized in the festivals and competitions that ruled the music industry of that era. He needed a producer, and he needed a hook. He examined his toolbox.

1. Guitar

2. Voice

3. Songs

His voice would never be better than mediocre. He was pretty good on the guitar. He knew how to use it on a stage, but he’d seen lots of guys like him, and he’d seen lots of guys that were better. That left him with the songs. His songs would have to be fireworks. He knew of only one guy whose songs could stand on their own, outside of the music and the voice, songs of pure poetry. He listened to Bob Dylan endlessly. He wrote Dylan’s lyrics out so he could look at them. Then he’d write, then he’d play. Then he’d write, and he’d rewrite. Then he’d play. Then he’d rewrite and rewrite and rewrite…

Flash forward to the future, to an opportunity. Bruce is placed in front of legendary music producer, John Hammond. Bruce is given a borrowed guitar and told to play a song. He sings okay and he plays okay, but the song he plays is “Growing Up.” Just one song, but it was a lyrically vivid song that told the tale of existential development that all young people face. Bruce is soon signed to Columbia Studios. The studio propped up his vocals and polished the music with a surrounding band, but they didn’t change anything in the lyrics. “Growing Up” would be the second song on his debut album, Greetings from Asbury Park, now ranked as one of the top 500 albums of all time.

Years later, playing at some televised, holiday special, Bruce had the chance to meet Bob Dylan in a stairwell behind the stage. At the end of a five-minute convo, Dylan says, “If you ever need anything, let me know.” Bruce, astonished at the generosity of his idol, simply said, “It’s already been done.”

Bob Dylan was great, and by committing to being a songwriter, he gave a small Bruce Springsteen a portion of what it meant to be a great songwriter. I hear that story, and I remember, with embarrassing clarity, that I was so jealous of The Boss. Not because of his fame or his success, though both of those things sound nice, but because he knew his mission. When a person finds their mission, they should make it part of their core. Bruce Springsteen has a wife and children and a childhood and a future, but music resides in his core. We all have a strength that could become our mission. We must put that mission in our core, it might not make us big, but if we can understand it, if we chase it, it will make us significant. I believe that as hard as I can believe anything.

I’m writing these words selfishly. The words are motivation. I have to convince myself of who I want to be. What I should be doing is making the final edits of my first book, Cheeto Dust…and Other Blood on Millennial Hands, but it was becoming a slog, and I was getting disheartened. My internal battle was familiar. Will anyone care about this at all? Does anyone actually read anymore? I’ve felt it before blog posts and articles, but the size of the anxiety seems to equal the size of the writing, and while Cheeto Dust is no doorstopper, it is definitely the biggest thing that I’ve ever written, so now it’s my biggest anxiety. Here’s an unhelpful exercise: how many books did you read in 2017? Now multiply that number by how many years you have left to live. Does my book deserve to be one in that number? Even as the author, I would feel embarrassed to say that it should. So why am I still writing?

A common sentiment among writers is that one is not the writer they will become until later in life. The metric used always changes. You’re the writer you’re going to be when you turn 40, when your third book is published, once you have children, after one million words, after ten million words, after you die. I assume the next thing I write will be better than Cheeto Dust (that opinion is more about skill development than the quality of Cheeto Dust. Semantic saturation—the psychological phenomenon that words temporarily lose meaning through repetition—is a scientific fact, and I’ve been repeatedly reading Cheeto Dust for months), but I don’t really want to be doing the next thing yet. Here’s an incredibly evolved litmus test I use to know whether or not I should be doing something: will this thing I’m doing bring me closer to the person I wish to be? It’s a pretty advanced technique, I know. Anyway, finishing Cheeto Dust must be done to bring me closer to my vision of me.

I’m writing because I want to write, but am I writing about anything that matters? Yes, it does to me.

Mission. It seeps into everything. I was listening to Bill Simmons interview Masai Ujiri, the General Manager of the Toronto Raptors. Masai grew up in Nigeria, and chasing his gifts in basketball led him to America, then to Europe, then eventually back to America. A friendship with a basketball scout, David Thorpe, led him to NBA management circles. One thing to another, he is now the leader of a multi-million dollar organization. Bill Simmons asked Masai what his best tip for leadership was, and after some hemming and hawing, Masai says, “Okay, I got it.”

“Be more passionate than ambitious.”

That says it all. Maybe you love basketball. Maybe you’re a budding rockstar unearthing the details of what makes your songs special. Maybe you’re a guy who’s letting a kid know that it’s cool to like comic books. If you can get beyond wondering if this “whatever” thing matters, if you can stop caring about whether or not it is big enough, and if you can start focusing on the passion, then you’ll reach the significance.

Don’t know if you have a calling? Dial it back. Here’s a phrase that might help: how you make your money is more important than how much money you make.

I write. And, sometimes, I write! I understand it, and I’m chasing it. I’m not even particularly great at it when compared to guys like Grant Morrison. When I feel invisible under the shadow of the supremely talented, I think about Jakob Dylan. He decided to become a singer/songwriter. How could a shadow get any bigger than picking the exact profession as your father, the greatest songwriter who ever lived? But he chased it with his band, The Wallflowers, and they were pretty good. In the 90s, they were making their way out of the shadow. Unfortunately, Dylan sang their biggest hit, “One Headlight,” at the 1997 MTV Music Awards with guest star, Bruce Springsteen. Bruce, molded by decades of performing until he knew no other way, sang the song 10,000% harder than Jakob ever could, and a whole new shadow fell. The Wallflowers never inhabited their name as much as that moment.

Jakob Dylan shouldn’t stop making music just because Bruce and Bob exist. And he didn’t. He’s been successfully working as a musician for his entire life. And while he may not be as big as Bruce or his father, he’s doing something that both older musicians would be proud of: he’s playing. He gets on a stage and he plays. Most of America is working, but Jakob Dylan is playing. That’s a great reward for chasing a strength. Listen to him in 2015. He’s no joke.

We all have a strength. I think strength is purpose, granted by God, and we should all chase our own while forgetting the human comparisons. Some people might think that it’s silly that you try to do something that others can do so much better than you can. They’ll tell you that what you are doing doesn’t matter. These are the phantom armies on the battlefield of our lives.

Life, the strange outpost from which we view existence, is a silly and specific thing. It can be infinitely meaningful and temporarily meaningless, just like words. What do I want to be when I grow up? Superman wants to save the day, because the day matters. It’s just a passing revolution of the sun, but it can change the world, or, more importantly, it can change you. Maybe it will be the day you hear a Bob Dylan song and realize that you have all the tools you need. Maybe you’ll read a Grant Morrison comic book and realize that your mission does matter. At least, it does to me.

Alright, I’d better get back to editing.

1 When I spell check this, “Batman” raises no flags, but “Catwoman” gets the scarlet squiggly of shame. Someone of Grant Morrison’s caliber needs to give Catwoman some narrative attention.

2 Even at six, I knew that having a good jump shot in basketball and being married to my prettiest aunt meant that this was an exceptionally cool guy.

My Birthday: Putting 31 in the Record Book

I turn 32 today. Four years ago, I wrote about the ubiquitous silliness of birthdays, but at 32, I feel differently. As Malin Akerman’s Billions character says, “If we don’t mark the milestones, we’re just passing with the times.” I have no interest in passing. So, for posterity’s sake, here are some things that happened while I was 31:

  • Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908
  • Donald Trump was elected President.
  • I was diagnosed with leukemia and KT and I had to postpone our wedding

  • The effort of friends caused both Bill Self and Roy Williams to write me get well letters (note KU game on iPhone in pic…true fan!)
  • We lost a James Bond and a Batman…and eventually the Tom Petty
  • KT and I had to put down Otis the dog, then we started chemo
  • There was that weird Oscars fiasco
  • KT’s grandpa, Bebop, passed away.
  • Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks were the No. 1 overall seed (unsurprisingly losing early)
  • KT and Roy Williams’ Tar Heels won the National Chamionship!
  • KT and I FINALLY got married (BEST DAY EVER!)

  • KT and I went on an amazing honeymoon (BEST WEEK EVER!)
  • KT turned an incredibly youthful 30 years old!
  • Little Brisket the dog came into our lives!
  • I finished chemo!
  • KT and I finished building and moved into our first house together!
  • I was declared cancer free!
  • I went back to work!

There’s a lot more stuff. Too much for a b-day blog post. In some respects, it’s easy to look back at 31 as a heartbreak of a year. But I don’t know if empty hearts can break. I’m lucky enough to have never been empty. I do know that a heart needs to be broken before it can heal, and healing—physically, emotionally, spiritually—is maybe the greatest miracle God gave us, right up there with life and love. You know, it’s also easy to see 31 as the very best year of my life.

Alright, that’s enough reflection for a birthday. The milestone is marked. Like Tom Petty sang:

It’s time to move on, time to get going
What lies ahead, I have no way of knowing
But under my feet, baby, grass is growing
It’s time to move on, it’s time to get going

KT and I love you all for all the support during 31. I greatly look forward to growing with you all during 32.


Donald Trump Should Get A Sex Change

I don’t know crap about politics. I have very strong feelings about the roles of morality and religion in society, and I think I would be capable of applying those feelings to theories on nation building, but I don’t know crap about politics. After writing a chapter in my (shameless plug) book, Cheeto Dust…and other blood on millennial hands, I know that I don’t know crap about politics. Still, I know a few things. Let me list them.

  1. Donald Trump is the President of the United States of America.
  2. Donald Trump is a man.
  3. Donald Trump is wildly unpopular with almost everyone I know.
  4. Fox News mostly defends Donald Trump, so he must be what we call “conservative.”
  5. Donald Trump should get a sex change.

What’s more liberal than gender identification? The strict definition of liberal is this: open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values. When I was a kid, I thought having a penis meant you were a boy, and having a vagina meant you were a girl. Now, who am I to have an opinion about anything? Living in the great state of North Carolina, I’ve seen the emotive power of a “men’s” restroom. It’s a room that shames us for our small mindedness and exclusionary nature. “Man” is just another word for hate. That’s a reason why Donald Trump would work better as Donna Trump.

When I get the rare chance to air my political opinions, I say the following: Donald Trump is the first President to make me care about politics. I say it with the confidence of truth and of fact. In the past, it didn’t matter if it was philandering Bill or war-propped George, I always believed that our Presidents cared about America in their way. That was enough for me. The country, while impossibly hard to run, was still being run by men who cared about running it. But Donald, a man with a ridiculous first name, doesn’t care about the country. He cares about winning. That’s why Donald Trump should get a sex change. And while Donald Trump is practically senile, Donna Trump is someone else entirely.

That’s the result you get when, well, you’re not an idiot. You can see what I’ve done here. In the 30 For 30 Podcasts episode, “The Trials of Dan and Dave,” Caitlyn Jenner requested that she be referred to as “Bruce” for her time as an Olympian decathlete. She’s not the same person anymore, and you damn well better respect her choice. This is the blueprint for Donald’s salvation, or rather, Donna’s salvation. I mean, he’s already an SNL skit, so let’s just be absurdist and let her live.

Will it be cheap? Will it be something that both conservatives and liberals hate? Will Donna declare that she can use whatever bathroom she likes because she uses only the best bathrooms? The answer is a delightfully infuriating yes. The best part is that we don’t really give a crap about the legal aspect of a sex change.

If Donald can find a doctor that agrees he’s Donna on the inside, then we have a brand new female-with-a-penis President. Conservatives will be outraged. Liberals will say it’s a choice and a fact, and they will be outraged too. Nobody likes it, but we all have to accept it. It’s legal. It’s America. It’s our first female President. And who wants to be seen not supporting a female president? Take that, glass ceilings!

Only Donald could do it. He doesn’t care about us, so he can give us everything we want.

Dusticular Can—Dusticular FORTITUDE!!!, Wednesday Afternoon, April 26

Here’s a fact that everyone knows and is still weird: there is no cure for cancer. But, maybe, I’m going to be cancer free one day. Maybe I am right now.  Doctors will tell you that ATRA and arsenic are not a cure. It’s a classic observation from the other side, one million is a statistic, but one is a tragedy. Here’s my take on cancer numbers, if you care, but this is not that. This is an examination of the cure.

Zac Glover is a guy I went to college with. I’ve only seen him a couple times since we graduated, but there are some people you click with, a kind of inexplicable tether that you can feel but not know. I’ve told the story of him as a northern Montana local news anchor a hundred times to random people. Long story short, it was cold and cheap and hilarious. He sent me the shirt in the picture, and despite my pensive visage, I LOVED IT!

No one on the planet is capable of telling me how I got cancer. It just happened. I won’t defy the science behind my treatment because, well why would I? But I’m convinced, with every passing day and every passing gift, that getting well is in the thing that science hasn’t named yet. Why does a nurse smile when she sees a new sick person come in the door? Does a hug relieve headaches? Did that doctor research his thesis with compassion?

My favorite part of The Amazing Spider-Man starring Andrew Garfield (yeah, I had one) was this:

“Put it on. Put the mask on. It’ll make you strong.”

It’s not real, right? It’s an obfuscation, a trick. Maybe faith and friendship and prayer and family and everything that makes you think you’re so happy to be getting better is just a construct, a made up fix for a dire experience. But it seems to me that it’s better than anything science can tell me. And this t-shirt isn’t made up.  It’s real. And whatever made it is real too. Thanks, Zac. It’s Glovely.

Have a great Wednesday. I love you guys.

Worth a Visit? McDonald’s, specifically for the Filet-O-Fish Sandwich.


I’d never tried the Filet-O-Fish. I just didn’t come from that school of dietary thought. But after positive reviews from my Facebook glide (flying high on Filet-O-Fish. Seriously, a bunch of flying fishes are called a glide), I knew I had to be one of the grouper. As is sometimes my duty, I will answer your burning questions about the Filet-O-Fish Sandwich. Most importantly, does it make McDonald’s, worth a visit?

are you into fish as a consumable?

Sure you are. And why not? There are lots of reasons to eat fish. It’s considered healthier than land meat. It’s full of Omega 3s, which are supposed to be good even if you don’t actually know that much about the dietary value of fish. Maybe you’ve given up “meat” for the liturgical practice of Lent to secure passage into the afterlife, which sounds bulletproof. Maybe you’re against the way the fast-food industrial complex treats animals but you’re still into convenience and a fish is more like an alien anyway. Maybe you just enjoy the the mouthfeel of a flaky Alaskan Pollock crumbling so gently that you can chew it with your tongue.

In any of the cases, YOU SHOULD VISIT McDonald’s for a Filet-O-Fish Sandwich.

But maybe you’re not into fish. I mean, pollution is a real problem and a lot of that ends up in the water, and I’m sure McDonald’s is getting a fresh catch from the open seas. Are Alaskan Pollock from the open seas? Look, you don’t know that much about fish, we’ve covered that, but they’re kind of icky, and you’re not into them as a consumable.

You WILL NOT VISIT FOR THE FILET-O-FISH SANDWICH. Get the McNuggets because they seem safer. 

Are you a millennial, a generation that, when surveyed, ranked mcdonald’s as their least favorite restaurant and probably (but not definitely) backed that ranking with an editorial stance on mcdonald’s that mostly trashes it as a gross slaughter house of unclean garbage food?

You are (likely).

Don’t compromise your beliefs. It is NOT WORTH VISITING.

Are you a millennial that, despite what you’ve said in surveys, are still part of a generation that visits mcdonald’s more than any other restaurant in america.

Duh. It’s America, so you’re never further than 107 miles from a McDonalds in the continental 48. It’s basically impossible to not go to McDonald’s.

Perception is reality. YOU’VE ALREADY VISITED, but you do it by yourself and don’t tell anyone.

Did you enjoy these sweet tidbits about millennials that were torn directly from this author’s “I swear one day it will be out and available for purchase” book Cheeto Dust….And other blood on millennial hands?

If so, keep an eye out. I’ll buy you a Filet-O-Fish Sandwich at McDonalds while watching you read and react to every detail, waiting patiently until you’re in between bites and have dabbed the pickled relish mayo from your lips so you can answer questions I have like, “Did you read the footnote too?”

C’mon. A free Filet-O-Fish with a potential author of something you might possibly enjoy maybe? YOU HAVE TO VISIT!

did I say pickled relish mayo? that sounds like an interesting topping that might be worth visiting for.

I did say that, because that’s what I thought it was, but it’s actually a custom tartar sauce. Blend mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons relish, capers, 1 tablespoon chopped onion, parsley, and sugar in a blender until smooth. Stir remaining relish and onion into the blended mixture.

You still want to try that, but you’re not exactly rushing to the nearest McDonald’s, no matter how conveniently they’ve placed it near your home, work, gym, and directly next door to your favorite boozery (or dispensery in certain more understanding states). Now that you’re thinking about it, you could really just tack a Filet-O-Fish onto an order anytime you stop by McDonald’s, because no matter what diet of the month your doing, you’ll stop by there eventually. Even if you tell yourself you’re just getting that $1 large Coca-Cola because it’s better there than anywhere else, you’ll probably be a little hungry too, and it’s not like anyone’s going to know you ordered yourself a frankly overpriced fish sandwich for $3.79. $3.79!? That is pretty steep considering it only comes with a half slice of cheese, a Filet-O-Fish tradition that somehow honors the original recipe invented by Lou Groen in 1962 because his Cincinnati, OH franchise served a large Roman Catholic consumer base that didn’t eat meat on Fridays. You really wish you didn’t know that bit about Cincinnati because you never considered that the town to take seafood tips from. Is fish really not meat? Catholics do have a pretty great history of over-indulgence though, and isn’t overpaying for something, just because you want to and can, a little bit what American individualism is all about? You don’t need to be reminded that $3.79 could feed a kid in a third world country for a week. You already knew that. Besides, after the sales tax, you’ll drop the extra three pennies in that little Ronald McDonald donation bin they put beneath all the drive-thru windows. Unless you pay with a card, in which case, hey, you did your best. McDonald’s gave $34 million to charity in 2011, and even if that is only 0.08 percent of their $5.5 billion net revenue and way less than similar companies like Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken, it’s still not nothing. You have to figure they don’t waste the other half of that slice of cheese either. YOU’RE STILL GOING TO VISIT. It’s a free country. 

is the filet-o-fish sandwich from mcdonald’s actually worth a visit?

It was really tasty.


Dusticular Cancer – April 7th, Friday Morning

A couple of people recently mentioned that they have trouble reading the CarePages posts. While I’m suspicious of their laziness and technical acumen (you know who you are), I’ll also copy them here from now on. I mean, I have the time. These posts are partially therapeutic for me, partially informative for you, and hopefully helpful for whoever cares to read them. If you’re into more cancer-related reading (WHO ISN’T!?), all prior posts can be found here.

Dust Bunny here,

KT joined me today for my infusion, which is a big win for the nursing staff. They’ve heard all my takes on marriage, home building, and most recently, the hypocrisy of amateur athletes in the Final Four. Having KT’s bright eyed sincerity is a plus in any situation, but if you’ve been on a steady diet of my company, she’s a palate cleanser.

What’s the most noble profession in America? Teachers have to be considered. Soldiers and first responders are probably the most brave. But after spending over a thousand hours in a cancer hospital, I’d give my vote to nurses. It takes a certain kind of courage to run into a flaming building, and it takes another kind to befriend and treat the sick and dying. I have friends who are nurses. I thought I understood their jobs, and maybe I did, from a technical standpoint. But now I believe that at least half of their job is emotional support. Their daily shift involves shining a light through someone’s nightmare. And for American professions, consider the Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” She’s literally holding a light to guide the beaten. So yeah, nurses are amazing, and my nurse today is one of my favorites. Her thing is being super mean as a joke. She said she hated it when I got my port because sticking me with needles got her out of bed in the morning. She’s awesome.

If nurse is a noble profession, then volunteer is the most impressive hobby. An old man who only volunteers for Fridays was in today. I’ve mentioned him before. He volunteers ever since he lost his wife to AML, which is also leukemia. He heard we were getting married and started a conversation. He married his wife in 1964, and they lived in Raleigh for a few years. Most of you reading this know that KT and I are building a house, and while waiting for that to be happen, we’ve been spending time in an old apartment community that we affectionately (and spitefully) call The Poorhouse. This old volunteer is telling us about he and his wife’s first apartment in Raleigh, a hot new neighborhood off of Oberlin Road that everyone wanted to live in. He struggled for the name before it came to him, Country Club Homes, aka The Poorhouse. It’s definitely the most excited that KT and I have ever been to tell someone that we live there. You never know what volunteering your time can mean. Sometimes it’s the little things.

I’m feeling good and my numbers are strong. Thanks for the support and have a great weekend!


Dusticular Cancer – March 29th, Wednesday Afternoon

A couple of people recently mentioned that they have trouble reading the CarePages posts. While I’m suspicious of their laziness and technical acumen (you know who you are), I’ll also copy them here from now on. I mean, I have the time. These posts are partially therapeutic for me, partially informative for you, and hopefully helpful for whoever cares to read them. If you’re into more cancer-related reading (WHO ISN’T!?), all prior posts can be found here.

Dust Mite here,

We got some big news on something very small yesterday. My oncologist tested my PML/RARA. That’s the fusion gene caused by the mutual translocation of chromosomes 15 and 17, and it’s the cause of my leukemia. So, this genetic test came back negative, which means there’s a 99.x% chance that I’m cancer free!

[High fiving interrupted by phone call. Insurance company wondering if we can stop treatment. We cannot.]

I’ve been symptom free from the cancer since I left the hospital, and protocol is that I’ll still have to stay on my treatment through August. At that time, they’ll give me another bone marrow biopsy, which is the purest test they can perform. So this doesn’t change anything about my day or plans, but it is still huge news. My oncologist actually called her mentor to confirm that we even needed to do the bone marrow biopsy because the chances of the test on the marrow being any different than the test on my blood are so slim. My take: we’ve come this far, so just check the marrow.

And so we will.

In other news, KT and I are less than 40 days away from our wedding. Predicting with a high degree of certainty that we get it done this time. We’re also less than three months from our house.The degree of certainty here is less so, but there’s actual parts of house on the lot, so that counts for something….we’re actually the little foundation on the right.

Some good things happening today,

Dusticular Cancer – March 20, Monday Morning

A couple of people recently mentioned that they have trouble reading the CarePages posts. While I’m suspicious of their laziness and technical acumen (you know who you are), I’ll also copy them here from now on. I mean, I have the time. These posts are partially therapeutic for me, partially informative for you, and hopefully helpful for whoever cares to read them. If you’re into more cancer-related reading (WHO ISN’T!?), all prior posts can be found here.

Dusty here,

KT and I are back at UNC Hospital as another month of injections begins today. Weirdly, it’s kind of a relief.

Don’t get me wrong, I much prefer not being in the hospital (If your disease-free options are to not be getting injections at the hospital or to be getting injections at the hospital, I highly recommend the former). But there’s something super frustrating about feeling like life is normal while knowing that it’s not. It makes sitting on your couch feel like being in line at the DMV. It’s not relaxing. It’s waiting.

But while I’m in the hospital, it’s less abstract. The needle pokes. The blood flows. The medicine medicates. And it’s these days where you can feel the calendar flip. That feels like progress. I get up in the morning, and instead of sitting on a couch, I sit in my car. I’m going somewhere.

Based on experience, the next couple of days will probably suck. My body has to acclimate to the medicine again after being off of it, but knowing how that goes makes it less of a big deal. For now, it’s nice to see the nurses again. They were happy that Kansas advanced in the tournament so that I could join in on making fun of their Duke-fan coworker. “I mean, you work for UNC. How good do you feel about cashing those paychecks?”

Speaking of March Madness (and because I have some time on my hands), I’m sure you all saw the news about the fire in downtown Raleigh. KT and I have a couple of friends who live in the apartment building directly next to it, and they’re completely safe staying with some family for the time being. It’s not publicly known how that happened yet, but that seems to be the next step in the way humans process this stuff. What happened? Who’d it happen to? Are they okay? How did it happen? And this is where we’re currently stuck. Maybe there’s a grand arsonist on the loose. Maybe wood construction isn’t the way of the future. I hope the “how” is discovered so everyone can answer the next part. Why. The “why” informs us of where to direct our resources. An arsonist requires human resources, educational and ethical, as another event reminds us of the holes in the human psyche. If materials are to blame, then political resources need to change regulations. Either way, the “why” is a critical part of healing the cause, not just putting out the flames.

The weirdest part about my leukemia is that they don’t know how it happens. There is no “why” to be solved. I know several of you have donated to cancer research with me in mind. It means a lot. There’s a million problems that need fixing in the world, and I’m not going to say trying to solve the unknown has more value than tackling something known like the water crisis (*sidenote below*). But it’s an honor to know that my problem has helped inspire some good. Example: our friend Natalee Jarrett raised a bunch of money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for a half marathon she ran in a blazing 1:43:00. Sure, she’d probably have raised money for something else good, but I’m taking like, 2% of the credit. Thanks a ton, Natalee. It was truly, greatly appreciated. Life deals some bad beats, from fires to cancer and everything else. If you’re doing anything to help the what’s, who’, how’s and why’s of any of those beats, thank you to you too. It is appreciated.

Give someone a great week,

**Sidenote: Watching these NCCA tournament games, I keep seeing the Matt Damon commercial where he’s promoting the partnership between Stella Artois and to help fight the global water crisis. It’s noble, and I’m not denigrating their efforts in any way. This is just a point that is related. It takes roughly 20 gallons of water to brew a pint of beer (Teetotalers shouldn’t be uppity. It takes up to 132 gallons of water to make a 2-liter of soda). Do what you will with this knowledge.

Part 3 – POWER RANKINGS: How good would your quarterback be at picking up girls if he weren’t an NFL QB?

Main Photo

If NFL QBs were stripped of their professional title and say given a mid-level position like “I work in finance” or “I’m a sales account manager at a Top 50 tech company” how would they fair with the ladies. For full ground rules and the rankings of the bottom third of these rankings, visit Part 1.

Hey gang, Dusty here. Looks like we made it. Look how far we’ve come. We might have took the long way, but we knew we’d get here someday. Shania Twain was right about a lot of things. Maybe she was singing about the success of a time tested relationship, and maybe she was singing about two bloggers banging out a controversial POWER RANKING of every NFL quarterbacks’ inherent gamesmanship outside of the pocket. Who can say?

Some people have taken the POWER RANKINGS pretty poorly, citing grievances like Andrew Luck coming in ahead of Kirk Cousins. What do you want me to say? I didn’t write the rules [sic], and even if I did, those rules are an analytical distillation of the subjective collaboration of two white guys born two weeks apart and living very similar lives in the same city. That’s accountability! Who better to balance Tommy’s opinion than someone who knows where he’s coming from? We ranked these guys without talking in the judgment categories, combined our scores, and we left it alone. From there, The Ideal POWER RANKINGS Law took over. Maybe it’s a little off.

Do I look at the picture of a certain lantern-jawed Miamian and think he got hosed at number 12? Sure. I’m human. But doesn’t “lifetime achievement” consideration bleed into the confidence and personality rating of Peyton Manning? The committee here at Writing Bareback thought so. And I stand by them.

As for Blake Bortles, screw that guy. Let’s look at the top ten, and maybe then we’ll all be happy.

Tyrod10. Tyrod Taylor, Bills – A lack of pride and a lot of persistence go a long ways in pickup success, and he’s got #TyrodTailored going for his fashion. But he’s basically a poor man’s Cam Newton. Taylor’s best strategy would be to follow Cam around at the bar and wait for a woman to be bitterly disappointed that Cam wasn’t interested in her. The he should introduce himself and cross his fingers that she thinks, “Eh, close enough.”

Alex Smith9. Alex Smith, Chiefs – Pleasantly surprised to see my boy crack the top 10! Gets an odd bump in looks for the Ryan Gosling comp. Looking like a celeb never hurts. Alex Smith is a guy who would have a girl completely engrossed in the best conversation of her life until Kaepernick interrupts to say “I’ll even wash your clothes in the morning” and shows the girl his abs. It’s too bad. I’m an Alex Smith fan.

Andy Dalton8. Andy Dalton, Bengals – His hair stands out as one of my favorite fashion accessories in the group. He embraces the much maligned gingerness, and in doing so, shows every woman his self-assured nature. He’s got a lot of “Kevin MacArthur” from The League in him which is a pretty lovable comp for a guy who’d make a great Assistant District Attorney. Physically, might as well be cut from stone compared to division rival QB1s.

Romo7. Tony Romo, Cowboys – (admitted blogger-bias) He’s tall, he’s in decent shape, he’s got big ears and goofy smile and lacking in the style department (still trying to bring back the paperboy cap). BUT! So much cool confidence and what a nice guy! The kind of guy that takes a homeless guy to the movies or pulls over in the rain to help an elderly couple change their tire. He’s so comfy in his own skin and the kinda guy you want to take home to mom, he’s definitely getting your number…and you heart.

Marcus Mariota6. Marcus Mariota, Titans – Great showing for the rookie! All the potential is there, but he’s still figuring it out. Marcus is the guy that walks into a bar, and every girl notices him. And then he starts talking, and he’s missing all the openings. It’s frustrating to watch. He looks like he’s hitting his stride with an amusing story about making coconut syrup on the Big Island, and right when she tells him he’s funny, Marcus leans in and says, “OOPS! I’M SORRY. I didn’t mean to spill that on you!”

Drew Brees5. Drew Brees, Saints – Ok, so he’s 6’ tall. But next to these other freak monstrosities, he looks like he’s 5’9” (NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT!!!!). And he does have this large birthmark on his face. But man, the guy is in great shape. And when he talks, you listen. You just love everything he has to say. He’s got the charisma of Ryan Gosling in Crazy. Stupid. Love. When it’s time to go, he’s getting you with his closing line “hey, you want to get out of here?”

Aaron Rodgers4. Aaron Rodgers, Packers – 5 letters baby, R-E-L-A-X. He’s got the ultimate NorCal chill vibe. Cool, calm, collected and confident. He’s not the best-looking nor the best dressed at the bar, but one look into those eyes and you’re sold. Heaven help you if its Movember and he’s unironically donning his finest Tom Sellick mustache.

Russell Wilson3. Russell Wilson, Seahawks – He’s a shorty amongst giants but with a personality that will make you think he’s 10 feet tall. His obscure race makes him dreamy across the board. He’s got just enough swagger with a genuine personality that makes EVERY GIRL think they have a shot. Where does all this confidence come from? Just Google Russell Wilson Sports Illustrated cover.

Brady[TIE] 1. Tom Brady, Patriots – The real reason non-Patriots fans hate Brady isn’t because of his Swimsuit Model wife or outrageous success. It’s because we all know, deep down, that if Tom Brady walked into our office as the new Junior Assistant to the Custodial Secretary on a Monday, he’d walk out as CEO on a Friday. That’s the kind of guy who’s not leaving the bar until he’s leaving with the best.

Cam Newton[TIE] 1. Cam Newton, Panthers – Tall, dark and handsome. Body carved from stone. As for style, he’s the best dressed guy at the bar, no question. This guy is OOZING with confidence and his “I’m too good for you” attitude will keep you on edge all night. Not to mention this guy is just a hell of a dancer. True story, when the bouncer’s complained about his dancing he simply replied “Don’t let me in then.” The only knock on Cam is he just seems a little too full of himself, like he’d go home with himself if he could. Like the kinda guy that gets a mani/pedi/facial weekly. Oh wait…

Cam Pedi


Hey guys, Dusty here. (and Tommy on the edit wagon).