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From the Sublime to the Ridiculous: The Unexpected Joy of Co–Star

The Pokémon guy returns to celebrate the joyous and frequently bizarre push notifications of a beloved astrology app, and finds himself embarking on a startling investigation



Astrology is certainly having a moment right now. Maybe it never went away. The most I truly understand about it is that once, when my ex’s sister endeavored to learn my birth chart, she threw the phone out the window in horror. She specialized in the field at the time, but even still found an all-Capricorn flush to be terrifying and – dare I say it –unprecedented. None of this matters. See, whether or not you buy into the proposition that our birth charts can help us navigate the complexities of life through some kind of transcendental insight, Co – Star is an app with something for everyone. I guess what I’m saying is, am I the only one who keeps Co – Star exclusively for the joyous, frequently bizarre, ramblings of their daily push notifications?

For those playing at home with no idea what I’m talking about, Co – Star is an app that I – based on virtually no data or expertise – attribute in part to the enormous rise of astrology and its reentry into modern discourse. It’s been around for a few years and tracks your comprehensive birth chart, with insights into what you can expect over the month and day. It allows you to connect with friends and see who may be experiencing hardship based on some sort of rising retrograde, or whatever. 

Towering above all of this though are the daily updates the application serves each morning via means of notification which, more often than not, seem to bear little to no resemblance to the advice offered in-app. Not that I would really know, in the two or three years I’ve had Co – Star, I could count the times I’ve actually opened the app on one hand. It’s the push notifications, and exclusively the push notifications, that have me lying in wait on a daily basis. They cover a striking range that would make any aspiring actor seething with jealousy. They artfully dart from the brooding Bukowski-esque melancholia of, “Your heart busts its knuckles against society”, to the vaguely Confucian, “be slow and strategic like a mushroom”. Sometimes it’s just downright practical: “Do your laundry. Fold it immediately.”

I’m quite convinced that if Co – Star somehow manifested itself into human form it would be the quirky drunk who wandered into the party from the street. No one is really sure who invited them, but they’re brimming with a fresh air of obscurity and stories that leave everyone transfixed if not a little uncomfortable. Where your stereotypical astrologist might be found in an incense den littered with Persian rugs, Co – Star hangs out at the pub.

It even has a wicked sense of irony. In the past, I’ve been graced by the invitation to “Write a love poem to yourself”, surreptitiously followed the next day by, “Poets Lie”. I have the screenshot to prove it if you don’t believe me, I wouldn’t, it’s just too damn perfect. 

Oxymoron aside, on this particular occasion I chose to take Co – Star’s advice. Over the past week I wrote my poem, but not without a small twist. I Co – Wrote this poem. Each line of what follows is taken, unedited and in chronological order, from my Co – Star updates over the course of a week. I dare you not to shed a tear:

The word love has to be reinvented

Who holds you when you cry?

Are you too attached to your own intelligence?

Consider counterintuitive solutions

Thoughts go beyond words

You have to become an expert in something

Give yourself a time limit

No one’s perfect

You own your pleasure

I have submitted this to The Paris Review.

My fascination with Co – Star led to investigation. Who is writing this? They have a flair for the dramatic, and based on their suggestion to “research the Harlem rent strikes of 1963,” get a kick out of fiscal history. On the outset of my search, I learnt that I belong to quite a large community. Indeed I am not the only one who derives the same sort of breathtaking mental stimulation from Co – Star that I do from picking out all the plot holes in a more recent Sylvester Stallone film. 

Things became interesting though, when I realised that despite the sheer mass of disciples who adhere to the Co – Star push notification school of philosophy, the answer to who writes the copy may perhaps be more confusing than the notifications themselves. Only three articles on the subject seem to exist. Two, on The Verge and Mashable, quote Co – Star co-founder and CEO, Banu Guler, as claiming the app relies on – wait for it – NASA data coupled with a complex AI program to churn out the notifications. Unbelievably, this is confirmed on Co – Star’s own FAQ page, which also incidentally confirms it has no affiliation with CoStar Commercial Real Estate. Thank god. 

The third article however, exists on Repeller and attributes the copy to one Stone Parkway, a former art school student with a self-confessed seltzer habit who honestly sounds like a total legend. Except for one thing. Stone Parkway admits that Stone Parkway is a pseudonym. I cannot find evidence of Stone Parkway’s existence anywhere else online. And based on Co – Star’s own suggestion that I should, “live parallel existences out in the internet that are completely and utterly fictitious,” I was left wondering if this was all an elaborate ruse to hide some form of greater conspiracy *cue sleuthing music a la Ancient Aliens*.

With an old-fashioned fugazi on my hands and generous helping of tin foil on my head, I poured over the articles a second time. I twigged that a McBean Parkway is quoted as the social director in another piece, although there they are not credited for writing the notification copy. Perhaps that explains it? No. The interview Stone Parkway conducted also references that McBean Parkway was another joke name they received in college based on a nearby road. McBean Parkway, Stone McBean, McBean Stone also returns nothing. No LinkedIn, no follow ups, nothing on the Co – Star site. Of course, this could be explained by the fact that they are simply too cool. Or. Or. The spherical goose chase I had embarked on did indeed hide one clue: a Google search on McBean Parkway surfaces a historical road in Santa Clarita, California. 

The road passes by College of the Canyons – which lines up with Stone Parkway’s story – and ends at the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital. That name sound familiar? Mayo Clinic is a popular online service founded by William James Mayo, son of William Worrall Mayo. While no evidence exists online to link Henry and William, I posit that based on their relatively close years of birth (1819 and 1825 respectively) and their mutual links to the healthcare industry, the two are almost certainly brothers. Cousins maybe. They at least, probably, shared a firm handshake once. 

William Worrall Mayo is a descendent of famed seventeenth century chemist John Mayow. John Mayow is well remembered in the catacombs of history for specialising in the field of pneumatic chemistry. Pneumatics is the branch of engineering that deals with air. If you just felt chills rocket down your spine you wouldn’t be alone. This is the point my inquiring mind sprung into action. Who else works with air and provides data to Co – Star? That’s right: NASA. 

With this uncanny “coincidence” in mind, it was only logical to assume that updates I have received in the vein of: “experiment with telepathy,” were not metaphorical. John Mayow stumbled across something we were never meant to know. Movement of air is clearly linked to extrasensory abilities dictated by the alignment of planets. This knowledge has passed behind closed doors over centuries and is currently being used as the subject of an experiment conducted by NASA under the guise of Co – Star like some sort of global-scale MK-Ultra. The fact Co – Star literally just sent me an update begging that I, “keep some things secret,” basically confirms this. Or, Stone Parkway appreciates their own privacy and I’m hamming all of this up because I find it really, really funny. By which I mean: don’t sue. 

I concluded my investigation with no solid findings and a newfound knowledge of British-American medical history. Co – Star once told me that, “despair is a feeling you experience when you realise you can no longer have something you never really wanted.” Maybe it’s right, in its own quirky way perhaps Co – Star is telling me the answer to my quest is something I never truly wanted to find. Perhaps the mystery is the spiciest part of it all and that’s why I never emailed the press enquiries contact clearly provided on the Co – Star FAQ. 

In the end, I only understand one thing: Co – Star must be protected at all costs. And Stone Parkway, assuming you do exist, if you’re looking for someone to help with the copywriting I would graciously accept.