Area man and recent retiree, Mel Unkolie, admits he has spent several months of his life looking for secret messages in ASCII images. 

“I used to look at ASCII images from time to time, and my wife always asked me, ‘Do you have any idea how much of your life you’ve wasted staring at those random letters and numbers? I’m shocked your magnifying glass handle hasn’t fallen off from overuse!’ And when she died a few years back, I decided to track the time I spend looking at the images, so one day, when I see her again in heaven, I can tell her exactly how much time I’ve wasted. She probably wouldn’t like it, but without her here to spend time with, I don’t have anything better to do.”

Unkolie says his obsession with ASCII images began in middle school when he spotted a dirty word in a corporate logo. He couldn’t believe the forbidden language was hidden in plain sight. He felt like he was in on a secret. And as a kid who wasn’t included in many things, this privileged information made him feel special.

“It was just so provocative to see that word spelled out before my eyes as part of a communication that was so public. Now I’m always hoping to find something more meaningful. I spotted a marriage proposal once. I cried for 15 minutes after I discovered it. It felt like I was sharing a private moment that would impact multiple generations of people who hadn’t even been born yet.”

Unkolie says the beautiful moments in ASCII images are few and far between.

“Mostly it’s just curse words or links to scandalous websites. Still, I keep searching. I guess I feel like if someone took the time to hide a message in an ASCII image, I want to honor them and their time by investing my energy to search it out. It’s just my way of seeing people. I think deep down we all just want to be seen.”

Since he began tracking his time ten years ago, Unkolie has logged 1,971 hours searching for hidden messages in ASCII images, and the clock keeps running.

Party goers became concerned last week, when area woman, Tildy Layshun, could not be found at the end of the night.

“We were all having such a great time that I guess I didn’t notice when she disappeared,” said Layshun’s long-term boyfriend Ben Ajurck.

Layshun’s friends walked the perimeter of the party searching for her.  They found her coat and purse still checked with the coat check attendant. So they concluded that she had not left the party.

“Eventually, I sent one of her girl friends into the restroom to check if she was there,” said Ajurck.

“When I found Tildy in the bathroom I was worried that she was upset with us, but she insisted that she was neither ill nor feeling emotional,” said Layhshun’s good friend, Amanda Subjugate. “I decided that this added up because Tildy isn’t prone to emotional outbursts and is generally good-natured.

When we tracked Layshun down to comment on the story, she expressed shock that her disengagement from the festivities created such a ruckus.

“The party was fine. I had a good time. I talked to everyone I wanted to talk to, ate some food, stashed some snacks in my purse for later, and then I was all partied out. I knew Ben would want to linger. He always wants to stay talk to everyone much longer than I want to be anywhere, so I slipped away to the bathroom, closed the lid of the toilet, sat on it, plugged some headphones into my cellphone and streamed a movie I’d been hoping to see. If you haven’t seen JoJo Rabbit, it’s fantastic – way better than making small talk with people you don’t particularly care about. I highly recommend it.”

Layshun says she hopes that her retreat into the bathroom to avoid party guests inspires others to live their best lives. Mostly she thinks that her behavior shouldn’t have been particularly noteworthy. But, since the incident has received attention in the press, she would like her actions to be considered an homage to “Michael In The Bathroom” a work of genius from the underrated Broadway show, Be More Chill. 

Area man, Austen Tayshus, put out a request today on several community message boards for donations of human teeth.  Police, seeing the request, became concerned and investigated, only to discover that Tayshus thinks of himself as an “Artist.”

“As far as we can tell he’s harmless,” said police sergeant, Richard Throb, “He says he makes mobiles out of discarded human materials but that the materials are difficult to procure because many online marketplaces have rules against selling human biological material.”

We reached out to Tayshus who refused to speak to us over the phone. He has a theory that cellular networks release an undocumented kinetic energy that saps creativity. However, he referred us to an artist statement on his website.

“I want to explore the parts of ourselves that we slough off. Skin, teeth, hair, excretions, each of these undervalued pieces of ourselves contain the most intimate details of who we are and who we will become. They reflect a fierce beauty we refuse to acknowledge.”

Tayshus will continue accepting donations of teeth through the end of the year. His mobiles are not for sale online, but can be bid on at various silent auctions around the community next year.

They say “Back To School” season can increase anxiety by up to 27% for youth between the ages of eight and nineteen. But a new hire at HayStack middle school says he thinks teachers have under-reported levels of stress.

“My first day on the job as an 8th grade science teacher, I showed up for work like I would at any other job. But after seven different students replied to my ice-breaker joke with ‘Okay, Boomer’ I made the mistake of looking up the phrase in Urban Dictionary.”

The area teacher expressed his shock at the language and vivid imagery used on the slang-word defining site,

“In my day, we knew how to make jokes without resorting to lewd language. The f-bomb may get some laughs, but it’s played out. It takes real wit to make clean jokes that make people laugh. Maybe this younger generation doesn’t know what comedy is anymore.”

He went on to explain that too many sexual jokes with inappropriate language have desensitized youth, keeping them from seeing the charm and humor in appropriate jokes like the one he told at the beginning of each new period on the first day of school.

“What do you do with a sick scientist? If you can’t Helium, and you can’t Curium, then you might as well Barium!”

The young teacher laughed for three full minutes at his own joke, muttering Barium under his breath a few times between guffaws.

“I mean those puns are on fleek, and I didn’t get a single chuckle.  Even after I backed up and explained that Helium, Curium and Barium were all elements, the students just rolled their eyes. So, I sang the song I was saving for the second quarter about the number of protons in an atom neuclei. I wrote it myself, it’s a parody of Umbrella by Rhiana… with the chorus going ‘ella…ella..elements…’  Trust me, it’s super catchy. But they just sighed and said, ‘Okay Boomer.'”

The area man, upon learning the children that he would be teaching all year thought of him aa an out of touch baby boomer, was outraged.

“I just got my master’s degree, and I only took one gap-year, so I mean, I’m barely even a millennial. Some would argue I’m Generation Z, proof that the social sciences shouldn’t even be called sciences because they don’t handle data with precision.”

When his fifteen-minute rant on historical inconsistencies in the accepted societal accounts concluded, the area teacher shrugged his shoulders a little and picked a piece of lint off of his pants.

“Anyway, next week I’ve carved out some classroom time to explain the origins of the word ‘Boomer,’ which I’m sure will set them straight. And in the meantime, I’ve picked out an entirely new wardrobe. I think I have a pretty hip second day of school outfit, but I can’t decide about the socks. I’ve put a binary poll up on my Facebook group, and I’m seeking out opinions on a Reddit thread. If I can really nail my accessories, I’m sure I can make up for a rough first day.”