Letters to McSweeney’s
Please send printable correspondence to email@example.com.
Note: Many letters, particularly ones from long ago, have been placed here unedited.
Letters from 2012.
From: Seth Fisher
Date: Thu, Nov 8, 2012
Subject: Plausible explanations for the Death Star Compaction System
Just trying to play Devil’s Advocate. I thoroughly enjoyed the read:
1. Why are there vents leading down there at all?
It’s not large enough to serve the entire space station. That room probably serves just a few levels, and to make things easy there are chutes at each level you can toss the trash into. Perhaps only the prison level’s is vented?
2. Why do both walls of the trash compactor move towards each other?
You’re thinking in terms of energy efficiency. The Death Star runs off of a seemingly limitless energy source at its core. Plus we don’t know the mechanism. If it was hydrolics or pneumatics then yes you’re doubling the parts and it doesn’t make sense. What if instead though the walls are part of a compression system that doubles as deck ventilation? As the airtight walls move toward each other, you create a vacuum to either side which can suck in air through vents (e.g. the one on the prison deck which is no longer dumping directly into the the trash. The two sides then serve to air out different parts of that level.
3. Why does the trash compactor compact trash so slowly, and with such difficulty, once the resistance of a thin metal rod is introduced?
I don’t think the rod did anything to slow it. I think it compacts slower as resistance builds with all the other stuff in there and the metal rod is just the work of a farmboy who doesn’t understand physics. You’ll note the highly educated Senator/Princess’s plan is “climb on top of it.” Perhaps the rod isn’t meant to slow the compaction, but to serve as a ladder the heroes could use to climb upwards as the walls got closer?
4. Why does the trash compactor only compact trash sideways?
You’re expecting the trash to be ejected into space. For a starship that makes sense, but the Death Star spends much of its time in a small orbit, thus large amounts of detritus buildup is unwise. More likely the trash is vented inwards into the station’s power source and destroyed. Making it into flat sheets would allow the system to have a very good control of the rate at which the matter is ejected into the power source. Or if they recycle the material (which is mostly metal), good control over the rate of slag to be melted.
5. And what of the creature that lives in the trash compactor?
The creature probably does indeed live off the organic matter, probably getting more than enough with the floating stuff that it doesn’t leave the surface except to escape. You’ll note it has developed a very keen sense of when the trash is about to be compacted, so keen that it lets a big meal (Luke) go immediately. I would guess the creature is serpentine and that it has found a drain. Also I would guess most ships have these and plan safe pipes for them.
6. Why not have separate systems for organic and inorganic waste, thus allowing full compaction of the inorganics and a closed sanitary system for the organics?
Again, this is more evidence for incineration, not expulsion into space.
7. Why has the Empire gone to the trouble of acquiring a frightening parasitic worm-creature and having it eat all organic trash?
Back to the worm. I would bet it evolved over millenia in non-space trash compaction systems. Perhaps because its ancestors were so useful, it is considered simple good luck to have one on board any deep space vessel, just as a ship without rats in the Age of Sail was cast darkly. A more plausible explanation is that the creature can naturally break down more than just human waste. Like maybe it eats lubricant oils which would otherwise not allow the slag sheets to remain cohesive… or some sort of corrosive acid that would hasten the breakdown of their septic systems.
8. Personally, were it up to me, I would have designed special garbage ships instead of employing a crude, cumbersome, and inefficient (to say nothing of unsanitary) compactor-worm combo to deal with the trash.
That is the least efficient way to deal with it! Just send the shit to the core and be done with it—save the ships for dogfighting X-Wings.
9. If the Empire insists on ejecting trash into space, why do they bother compacting it?
I’m convinced they incinderate it.
Please understand, gentle reader, I am all for creating hassles and headaches for the Empire. I just doubt that the Empire would have created so many for itself. Q.E.D.
You obviously don’t have much experience with totalitarian governments and their staggering inefficiencies. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine in such a government that the dude who designed a superfluous compaction-ejection system with twice the necessary parts, and put a worm in it was the nephew of a high-ranking official. Traveling faster than light, however… that’s just total science fiction.
— Seth of MGoBlog
From: Logan B.
Date: Mon, Nov 5, 2012 at 10:13 PM
Subject: so it’s come to this… you have this low-paying, really influential job. now it’s time to make them pay…
I’m one of your meaningless, retarded subscribers who doesn’t have access to your inner circle. I don’t know Gabe or Neal, and I certainly don’t get the related inside jokes you all enjoy. That said, why did you eighty-six the Letters section of your website? Unless I’m misguided and drunk, you’ve just buried the appeal you worked so hard for. The unwashed showed up to be spotlighted and you felt only those in your circle deserved the light? Be ashamed, but of course, you won’t. You’ll make judgements instantly, to preserve your own self of worth. The revolution is coming, and we’ll come for you last.
Editor’s note: Logan later realized his mistake and apologized…
Turns out, I’m one of the crazies. Duly noted.
From: Jess E.
Date: Sun, Nov 4, 2012
Subject: Foul language
Do you have to use such foul language in your website? Usually, people who use this kind of language are people with no education and who want to cover it up with words that they think give the impression that they are cool and hip. But after reading a bit of your text (I could not take more than that), I don’t think you fall under that category. You know your tenses and you put words together to form sensible sentences. So my question is Why? To offend? To be cool and hip? Sorry, I have to blacklist your website.
From: Rich Denmark
Date: Sat, Nov 3, 2012
Subject: You are such a creep! =)
Thanks for all that you do. Can’t wait to get a hold of more. My girlfriend is going to be studying library sciences and book arts. We went insane when we saw the collection in Mcs’s 36. We were at something called the Friends of the Library book sale in Gainesville, FL. I was in their special collections area. In line waiting to get all these cool old childrens books. (If you are interested in one I recommend Wanda Gag’s Storybook Artist. Got it for $7, good luck.) When all of a sudden I turn and see a dastardly sweating king’s of convenience little man face staring at me from the very top of one of their book shelves. I didn’t see if before because it was up on the the shelves are high when you are close to them. I had no idea what this man was but I wanted him. I snatched his little face down with a little jump and produly brought it to the check out line with all my other finds. Only $10, not too shabby for the creativity and everything inside. It was still sealed and although this money goes to charity and not you it is helping the local libraries and got me to bookmark your site (something I haven’t had in about 5 years.) It showed me what you were up to know and the massive collection you have of printed material. Can’t wait to share this more with my gal and friends and family. I hope to own more of what you are putting out one day. I like this box head idea. so much fin inside. Will probably add some small odd format books that are odd on the shelf, like Maurice Sendak’s Nutshell Library. Though, if it were my head, I’d be able to fit 45’s inside this beautiful cube. We’ll just call it a feature request for now.
Anyway, your note inside said you send people stuff to add to the collection if they send you photos. I hope it’s not to late, but know that either way the product was well received and will be read, read and read.
Rich Denmark & Madison Curry
From: Bill Pegler
Date: Sat, Oct 20, 2012
Subject: The Convalescent
Just read The Convalescent by Jessica Anthony and wanted to tell you how much I loved the book. Incredible writing, flawlessly structured—just plain great. Peter Dinklage comes to mind for the movie version with Terry Gilliam at the helm. Can’t wait for Ms. Anthony’s next work. Which is good. Thank you for taking the risk to
All the best,
Oxford (Wisconsin, that is)
From: Susie Hatmaker
Date: Tue, Oct 16, 2012
I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the “Bream Give Me Hiccups” column, and thought for some reason that you would like to know this. Finding it on the Internet made a whole evening of my life much better. The writing is excellent. Please keep it up, until it meets its natural end.
From: Maggie A.
Date: Fri, Oct 12, 2012
Editor’s note: In case you need context for this, it can be found here.
From: Christian Connor
Date: Tue, Oct 9, 2012
Subject: Atlas Shrugged
Hi! I have a question about a letter I read on your page. It was entitled “Our Daughter’s Isn’t Selfish Brat; Your Son Just Hasn’t Read Atlas Shrugged”. I wanted to know if this was a spoof or if someone actually wrote this letter meaning what they wrote? If it is a spoof, phew! If not, what the heck? How could someone actually believe that drivel? I can’t fathom people behaving in that manner and personally, I find that raising a child in that manner to be as bad as child abuse or more accurately, a form OF child abuse. Anyway, please let me know if this was a serious letter. Thank you so much!
Editor’s note: We have cleared up Christian’s confusion. Our children will never play with his children ever again.
From: James Hansen
Date: Wed, Oct 3, 2012
Subject: Matthew James
I love Matthew James’ columns! Thank you for publishing him.
From: Jonathan Lyon
Date: Mon, Sep 10, 2012
Subject: Response to Johnpatrick Marr’s review of Tim Horton’s Venetian Cream Donut
As a lifelong resident of Toronto, and frequent listener of the edge, I am happy to advise you that north of the border, in clean, civilized, relatively murder-free Toronto, the donut that you purchased is still called a Boston Cream. Perhaps it has been renamed for the Buffalo market, although I would imagine more Buffalo residents have visited Boston than Vienna. Do Buffalonians share a common hatred for Bostonians and their knowledge of Norse history?
From: Andrew Wagner
Date: Wed, Jul 18, 2012
Subject: Head Issue
You’ve sent me an issue shaped like a square head. And what an issue it has been. Ever since its arrival, my wife (we’ll call her Jennifer) and I have engaged in an irksome back-and-forth on the head’s placement in our library. To her defense, that library is also her office, and with my placement preference, the head sits grinning at her throughout what is sometimes a very long day due to Tweeter and Facebooks goings-on (she is a social medium consultant, as I understand it). For months, I’d find the head facing the side of the bookcase or the wall. I’ve rejected this rearrangement protesting, “It’s ART! It’s goddamn ART, honey! It’s like you’re flipping that crowd on a riverbank painting featured in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off around! Goddammit!” I even offered to compromise with a roughly 35-degree cant toward the door to greet visitors instead of staring at her to no avail.
But things have now gotten worse. Crazy Man Phil—which I call the box, and which I’ll admit is probably not the best name for a work of art when one’s wife is creeped out by it as it is. Wait a sec. Why the hell didn’t I name him Art?! I’ve been screaming all along that the box is ART! yet it never occurred to me to name it Art! Oh well, it’s Crazy Man Phil; too late to change that—has now been relegated to the, get this, closet.
Clearly this isn’t acceptable. Yet “Jennifer” and I are at ends on this one. So I write to ask if you have found a solution to this problem. Surely I’m not the only one to have submitted this quandary. Have you masks, perhaps? Something like Lady Gaga has worn, maybe? I think that would be a good compromise. Plus, we could double-up on the art factor. I’m not good with crafts, sadly, so making something artish really isn’t going to happen.
The defender of art,
P.S. I know I wrote in a kitschy, silly way, but this is serious. Our marriage lies in your hands.
Until there’s a family decision about that terrifying cup holder with giant eyes (lower right in picture), we don’t think the face box should be much of a issue. Put a bonnet on it or something. Just keep the focus on the pen holder. That thing has already invaded our dreams. Can’t imagine what it’s done to yours. God speed.
From: Lilian C. Wang
Date: Wed, Jul 11, 2012
Subject: Re: Katherine Markovich’s Open Letter About Taking Pictures of Food on Instagram
Dear Katherine Markovich, who presumably does not take pictures of food with Instagram —
You are right on the money. That handful of blueberries probably is the most connected to the earth I’ve felt in a long time, given that I spend most of my days behind a screen in an uncomfortably air-conditioned building with my skin color fading to gray. And that exasperatingly convoluted dinner entrée is probably as domestic as I’ll get until my 38th birthday when my bearded boyfriend and I finally decide on some sort of hippie domestic partnership. And actually, I probably am having a bad day, probably because it’s against my bearded boyfriend’s religion to spend money on jewelry or flower bouquets or taxi cabs, but after college, I traded in my ambiguous Snow Patrol lyrics and my routine of throwing back and throwing up vodka sodas because instagramming shit is an instant (see what I did there) pick-me-up. I’m immediately gratified by gazing adoringly at how the touch of the filters makes the evolution vegetable and fruit smoothies I discovered at Whole Foods appear magical and, as a corollary, my life seem picturesque. Sorry, I don’t have a car or a cat, but good thing everyone loves food! They say music (or was it smiling) is the “universal language,” but really food is the thread that ties us all together, indenturing us to a primal ritual of eating and shitting that none of us can rise above. Wouldn’t you agree?
Anyway, haven’t you watched the latest season of Mad Men or, at the very least, Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona? Don’t you remember Megan’s mom, that really French woman, explaining away Megan’s latest episode of wine and whine with, “this is what happens when you have the artistic temperament but you are not an artist”? Or maybe you remember Cristina’s character, an absolute romantic in every sense of the word, who punctuates the movie’s beautiful and pointless scenes with longing stares and forlorn sighs, who would not let go of the belief that her life was a masterpiece in itself? You see, for those who daydream about a life of art gallery openings and serendipitous encounters à la Closer (that rather creepy movie with Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman), for those who were born chasing poetry but can only get as far as community college courses in rhyme and rhythm and taping verses written on scraps of binder paper on their bedroom walls, Instagram is our best bet.
Sure, we’re a delusional bunch, but not so delusional as to believe that, with an iPhone and Facebook’s most recent acquisition, we’re somehow comparable to professional photographers, visionaries, least of all auteurs. We know that instagrammed pictures of high tea and mimosas—like reading To the Lighthouse, watching Midnight in Paris, fluttering to one cultural festival or another, and painting the town some color in hooker heels and sparkly bodysuits—is just one piece of the grand façade of who we’d like to see ourselves as—just as exchanges of wit and sarcasm and snarky letters might be a piece of yours.
Admittedly, instagramming life’s smallest of moments isn’t for everyone. It’s for the dreamers, the ones who would like to see our worlds as beautiful, even meaningful, if we’re feeling particularly daring. Though arguably inferior, this is our form of expression. As someone very wise very optimistically put it, Instagram democratizes art—in a safe, watered-down way. It lets us express what we so emphatically feel is inside of us, fighting to manifest itself in something visual, tangible, real. Trust me, if Megan Draper had Instagram, she wouldn’t be downing bottles of rosé and getting all weird. Instead, she’d be taking photos of the wine bottles delicately arranged so that the waning sun illuminates the glass’ pigments and eagerly applying the Walden filter to the breathtaking views from her balcony.
Instagram is the poor, talentless man’s instrument. Facebook albums are the exhibition gallery, and comments and “likes” the reviews. So, let us have that glorious moment in the sun when a white number on bold cherry red appears on our Facebook navigation bar and we’re ensconced in a questionable number of exclamation marks and heart emoticons underneath our latest piece, “my shoe collection” in Kelvin.
And omg, thanks girl, we love the new place too!
From: Sarah Webster
Date: Mon, Jun 18, 2012
Subject: the harmonic giraffe
Yesterday morning the UPS man delivered to our apartment a rather hideous, over-sized novelty giraffe teakettle in a large brown box. It was the final item in the list of “necessary” flat items. The cherry on the top. The last piece of the puzzle. The flag on top of the mountain. This mountain was a mountain of accumulated domestic objects, the foothills of which include amongst other things, a microwave found discarded on our street (functional and happily sans dead baby animals), a $20 seven foot couch from Thrift Town (de-assembled, and reassembled (in tandem with my relationship with M) to get through our narrow entranceway), and a small array of kitchen ware and cheap linen purchased in a semi-autonomous trance at Bed Bath & Beyond.
When boiling, the giraffe emits a low mournful harmonic from an unidentifiable, plastic, leaf-garnished orifice in its anatomy. This morning when it blew, it was not, (as I felt it should have been), a cheerful whistle in celebration of M and I finally having our shit together and being able to make tea. Instead, the sound seemed ominous. With its beady plastic eyes the giraffe gaped at me without sympathy. Why did you spend $50 on a novelty teakettle when your funds are dwindling and you don’t have a job? And like a pied piper of middle-class responsibility, the horn heralded in a plague of badly designed web pages that have systematically debased my desktop. The language of these pages is perplexing. Strange codes prefix stranger descriptions. The phrase ‘MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS’ appears everywhere, followed by a chain of nouns; license, certificate, degree, diploma, accreditation, masters, experience, doctorate. And adjectives; required, essential, compulsory, must have, strongly preferred. Words all linked by the demoralizing, capitalized conjunction, “AND”.
These pages have sent me back to bed where I think about collecting the entire set of novelty teakettles off Amazon.com. Perhaps the combined chorus of a giraffe, a whale, a zebra, a ladybird, a strawberry, a duck, and a rooster will be enough to rouse me from the comforting incapacity of my bed.
McSweeney’s, I’ve been procrastinating. For this important task I’ve turned to you and you’ve not disappointed. Thank you Marco Kaye, and Eric Feezell for your resumes, and thank you Mike Lacher for making me feel better about turning down the MFA program to jump on a plane instead, plan-less, job-less, wit-less.
McSweeney’s, I clearly have cabin fever. McSweeney’s, I don’t quite know why I’m writing to you about it. McSweeney’s, it seems like I’ve taken the polite invitation on your website to tell you about my day, rather over-zealously.
Much respect and gratitude for all that you do,
From: Jim Ireland
Date: Tue, Jun 5, 2012
Subject: Fake Resume
Your fake (but all too realistic) resume is a hit out here in the designers world. If I could add a couple things, it would be this. Idiots who use Publisher, do complete layouts in Photoshop, or bring in 72 dpi web graphics to use in a printing job. These things will eventually be in a news article about me, somewhere in the same paragraph as the quote from the neighbor about my being “such a nice quiet man.”
— Jim Ireland
From: L. Murray
Date: Mon, Jun 4, 2012
Subject: Not THAT At Home on the Range? …Well, Yes, It Is.
My gosh, I just saw Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book, At Home on the Range, and picked it up. I’ve been in possession of the original edition of that book for several years. I have a collection of old cookbooks and books about food, the more unusual the better (other people can have their “Joy of Cooking” and MFK Fisher), and I was delighted to read it after finding it in a second-hand bookstore. I’ve always wondered about the author, whose very interesting and energetic personality come across at least as clearly as what she had to say about food. It’s a wonderful coda to see the book represented today complete with context and family history.
Perhaps you could tell Ms. Gilbert for me that there are still people out here who know her ancestor’s name and have read and appreciated her book. As a vegan, I wouldn’t be making 99% of the recipes, and I have to skip over the parts about brains and calves’ heads, but the author’s relish for food, adventure (even—or perhaps especially—of the everyday sort), and entertaining are accessible to anyone. As, indeed, they have been to me.
From: EVOLA WONDER
Date: Thu, May 31, 2012
Subject: GIVE ME THE PASSWORD
I LOST THE PASSPORT.
From: Jack Burgess
Date: Thu, May 24, 2012
Subject: Comic Contest
I was wondering if I could be the winner of your Comic Contest for the Internet Tendency website? I realize that you canceled the contest, but I’m assuming that left the winner spot completely open.
If you would grant me the title I would be happy to list myself as winner of the McSweeney’s Internet Tendency Comic Contest that Never Happened, or the We Should Have Talked Ourselves Out It Comic Contest. Either way, I believe that people will take it as an obscure literary reference or clever title, and just consider me a winner.
Let me know,
From: Joe Berry
Date: Thu, May 10, 2012 at 5:26 PM
Subject: Fresh Step
Do you guys know if the video of Fresh Step’s appearance on Letterman is around anywhere? I really want to see it again. It’s a long-standing joke among my friends. We often sign emails “two fresh in the 2k.” It’s comedy genius that keeps on giving (even though that’s not really true).
Editor’s Note: This is all we could find.
From: Raj Sehgal
Date: Sun, Apr 29, 2012
Subject: My Dog Enjoys McSweeney’s
In January, I returned home from the local Humane Society with a two-year old mutt named Peter. He’s a friendly, tag-wagging sort of dog, so instead of giving him a new name like Bertrand or Roosevelt or Colonel Barks-a-lot, I chose to stick with the name Pete since that’s a friendly, tag-wagging sort of name. As with any new relationship, we had our ups-and-downs in the first few months but I believed we had come to an understanding on some of the more divisive issues (for example, he learned that he wasn’t allowed to jump on the coffee table while I was around; I learned that when I was gone, it was open-damn-season on getting onto the coffee table).
Recently, a new issue has come up and this prompted my correspondence. Due to my work schedule and his inability to stay outside for prolonged periods without barking loud enough to anger my entire neighborhood, Pete roams free through my house during the day. This hadn’t been a problem until his recent discovery of McSweeney’s, in particular his discovery of the volumes arranged right at snout-level on the bottom of a bookshelf. While there were other books at the same level, he preferentially targeted the McSweeney’s books with a vicious chewing attack (volumes #20, 23, and 26 sustained the heaviest damage). When I returned home and found the scene, I pointed to the pieces of shredded book scattered on the floor. “Explain your reasoning to me,” I said in the even cadence recommended by dog trainers when confronting dogs about urine puddles. Unfortunately, he did not respond so I don’t know whether his actions were a political protest in reaction to “Where to Invade Next” (Stephen Elliott, #26) or an appreciation of the varied literary styles of Roddy Doyle, Deb Olin Unferth, and Clancy Martin (#23). Or, and I mention this only because Pete is a dog, perhaps he found the spines of the books comforting to chew on. Tough to know.
Regardless of the reason, I would like to protect the rest of my collection. Since he obviously pays attention to your work, I was wondering if I might send him a message here:
Thank you for your time.
Editor’s Note: The following five reader letters are in response to Michael Andor Brodeur’s list, “Fake Massachusetts Towns”.
From: Katie Studley
Date: Fri, April 13, 2012
Subject: Braintree is a REAL town in Massachusetts:
Just FYI :)
From: Dan Carmine
Date: Thu, April 12, 2012
Subject: Fake Mass Towns
Guys, Braintree IS a real town in Massachusetts!
From: Marcy Newton
Date: Thu, April 12, 2012
Subject: You’re wrong
Your Fake Massachusetts Town List would have been funnier if you hadn’t accidentally included an actual Massachusetts town. Braintree is a real town!
Your editor’s response to the above three letters, plus the numerous tweets we received that were in the same vein:
Yes, Braintree is a real town. That’s part of the joke. I’ve been to Braintree, several times. Have relatives buried there even. And I used to frequent the Valle’s Steakhouse on Route 3 before it became a Hilltop Steakhouse and then a car dealership.
From: Ariel Berman
Date: Thu, April 12, 2012
Subject: Another fake Massachusetts town
— Ariel Berman
From: Matt Wall
Date: Thu, April 12, 2012
Subject: In Massachusetts town category, some explorations of Cape Cod
Speaking as a sort of native of the place, I cannot begin to tell you how exasperating it is to have to explain this to visitor, repeatedly, so present this guide to locating Cape Cod towns as an additional public service.
First off, let’s get oriented. If you hear locals refer to the “Upper” “Mid” and “Lower” Capes, it is quite simple: The Lower Cape, of course, is above the Upper Cape, which is at the same latitude as the Mid Cape. You take the Mid-Cape to get to the Mid Cape and Lower Cape, but it barely brushes the Upper Cape, much of which is off-Cape anyway. (Speaking of which, you can take 6A North or South on either the East or West of the Canal, to get to 6A East or West, but the Mid-Cape is really the way to go these days.)
East Dennis is North of Dennis, and Dennis Port, West Dennis is to the South of East Dennis, and South Dennis is to the North of West Dennis, which is also to the North of Dennis Port. Yarmouth Port is where there is no Port but South Yarmouth (which is South of Yarmouth, but at the same latitude as West Yarmouth) has a Port. South Yarmouth is to the North of West Yarmouth. The Yarmouth-Dennis high school is in Yarmouth, as is Dennis Pond, but Old Yarmouth is in Dennis. Ed Gorey’s house is still in Yarmouth Port (inland) but is not nearly as interesting since they cut down the hedges and took out four of the five toilets he had hoarded, and certainly less interesting than when Ed was around the house.
South Orleans is to the west of East Orleans (but there is no West Orleans), East and West Falmouth are both to the North of Falmouth and to the south of North Falmouth (and there is no South Falmouth), and Old Falmouth Port is now Woods Hole while old New Falmouth Port is Teaticket. Good luck pronouncing Teaticket.
You can get a ferry to Nantucket at Hyannis, but not Hyannisport (where there is no port), which is technically part of West Hyannis, which is to the south of Hyannis. West Bay is immediately to the south of North Bay, in West Hyannis, which is technically Osterville but actually Cotuit, which is West of North Bay and south of West Bay.
You can also get the ferry to Nantucket at Harwich Port, which you get to by first going through Harwich Center, then Harwich, which are to the east of Northwest Harwich, which is due east of North Harwich. East Harwich is to the north of them all, most especially North Harwich, which is as far west as you can get and still be in a Harwich.
West Chatham and North Chatham, somewhat confusingly, are to the West and North of Chatham, respectively, but you simply cannot get into Chatham because of the traffic.
Oh, and one might add that the North-South running Cape Cod Canal actually runs West to East (remember this when taking 6A East or 6A West to the North or South on the East or West sides of the Canal.) Which you should know, of course, since Wareham, while off-Cape, is on the Cape, as are East Wareham and to many people’s surprise West Wareham (even though it is technically also in Rhode Island), as is Sagamore also off-Cape and on the Cape, but not Sagamore Beach, which is off-Cape and not on the Cape.
Enjoy your visit!
- Matt Wall
From: James M. Rose
Date: Thu, Mar 29, 2012
Subject: Scalia pizza
You have Justice Scalia on the wrong side in your piece “The Supreme Court Issues a 5-4 Decision on Where to Order Lunch” by Eric Hague. As I have written on my blog, Scalia prefers pizza. In an article published in California Lawyer, Scalia was asked the following question and, surprisingly, answered it candidly:
Q: You more or less grew up in New York. Being a child of Sicilian immigrants, how do you think New York City pizza rates?
SCALIA: I think it is infinitely better than Washington pizza, and infinitely better than Chicago pizza. You know these deep-dish pizzas—it’s not pizza. It’s very good, but… call it tomato pie or something… I’m a traditionalist, what can I tell you?
Mr. Hague responds:
I believe Mr. Rose has mischaracterized Justice Scalia’s nuanced views on pizza. In an article in the Cardozo Law Review (“My Pizza with Ninó,” 12 Cardozo L. Rev. 1583 (1991)), Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kosinski relates an episode in which he dined with the Justice at the latter’s favorite D.C. pizza place. Judge Kozinski was unimpressed by the restaurant’s pizza, so during a subsequent lunch, he ordered a takeout pizza for Justice Scalia from what was supposed to be one of Washington’s best pizza spots.
According to Kozinski, Scalia literally refused to eat it.
So while I do agree that Justice Scalia enjoys a good slice, I’m almost positive that he wouldn’t have anything to do with a Domino’s pizza.
— Eric Hague
Date: Sat, March 24, 2012
Subject: NEW NATURAL BASKETS
Dear Sirs or Madam,
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2. Straw products
Straw bags, wheat straw basket, corn straw basket, seagrass basket, paper straw, basket and so on.
3. PE/PP storage basket
PP strip basket, pp bags, laundry basket and so on.
4. Wooden boxes
Wooden gift box, wooden wine box and so on.
5. Cloth Crafts
Cloth box, cloth and willow box and so on.
6. Rattan Furniture
For details, you can go through our website to find your favorite.
From: Jeremy Miller
Date: Fri, Mar 23, 2012
Subject: Re: ROLLER-DERBY PSEUDONYMS FOR LITERATURE MAJORS
Dear Sir or Madam,
I play roller derby on a recently formed men’s team in Ithaca, NY. I have been searching for just the right derby name for months. “MacDeath” is perfect. Sadly, two of your authors thought of it before I could. I wonder if you could put me in touch with J. Steven Davis and/or Katherine J. Hannon? I would very much like to use the name, but not without permission. Thank you in advance for any help you can provide.
— Jeremy Miller
From: Christopher Capozzoli
Date: Thu, Mar 8, 2012
Subject: a letter to mcsweeney’s
Dear McSweeney’s Internet Tendency,
First off, thank you for your years of tedious and oftentimes thankless dedication to the internet. The Internet can be a cold and lonely place, but there is hope with outposts such as McSweeney’s to maintain some semblance of order.
From time to time, I consider submitting short stories and little comments to McSweeney’s, though this is not one of those. I wanted to tell you about my day, because you invite those of us surveyors of the Internet to do so. My name is Chris and I live on an island called Manhattan, which is a crowded and loud place. I grew up in The Woodlands, Texas, which is a landlocked place that is open and quiet.
Today, when I returned home from work at NYU, I realized someone had broken into my car.
This person, whoever they may be, didn’t take anything. There was nothing in my car to be taken anyhow. They didn’t even break the window—they did it the old fashion way, with a wire through the window to unlock the doors. I had a Toad the Wet Sprocket CD under the passenger side seat, which held the musical musings of my hopes and dreams. The person didn’t even take that. My hopes and dreams apparently have no street value. Though nothing was taken, they left a horrendous mess of paperwork that had been in the glove compartment.
And so, for the sake of my car, I feel somewhat violated. Still, nothing was broken, nothing was taken, and so for that I am thankful.
In reality, all is well and I feel quite fine. It was a lovely day in New York City, with the temperature up around seventy degrees with a soft breeze. I hope it’s as lovely, if not lovelier, in San Francisco!
Thanks for your time,
From: Sloan Schang
Date: Wed, Mar 7, 2012
Subject: Greetings from China!
My room in this Beijing guesthouse has a standalone shower unit in the bathroom. It’s tubular and glassy, like a sci-fi suspended animation capsule. It’s one of those deals where there are about 25 water jets staring at you from all sides, promising the kind of pulverizing cleanse I’ve never actually had the pleasure of receiving, because the goddamn things are always broken. True to form, only one jet works in this particular shower and it’s a little left of center, which is a problem only because the glass door happens to be missing a panel directly opposite this jet. To remedy this, the guesthouse has cleverly installed a drain in the floor of the bathroom to receive the water that sprays everywhere when the shower is turned on. I certainly wouldn’t have thought of that. The shower also has a little control panel inside that looks as if it’s meant to control a built-in radio. The thread of disappointment continues when I figure out this doesn’t work either, although I did get some joy out of pressing the on/off button and watching it all light up momentarily until I realized that dear God this shower is actually connected to electricity. In the process of groping around behind the unit to find the plug, which I disconnected without incident, I also found a sticker written in that now familiar hybrid of Chinese-English that is one of the wordsmith’s great delights while traveling in China. It said:
1. When you feel be choked with the roller door closed entirely, please move the door and keep chink when you are having a shower bath.
2. Those (Drinker, Hypertension Person, Feeble Person and Pregnant Women) are FORBIDDEN to have shower bath in room.
3. Children must have shower bath with parents company outside the room.
4. When you are stivy or vomit in the room, please go out the room immediately!
The real pity of the thing is that there was no second sticker to explain what the symptoms of “stivy” are, so I may never know far enough in advance if there’s any danger. I mean one minute I could be fine, working up a nice lather, and the next… stivy. “He was so young,” they’ll say, “to have gotten stivy.” And naked like that, in a Chinese shower! What would his poor mother say? There is a popular saying that it takes at least fifteen years of training in the Chinese language and one year of remedial English study to be able to write fluently in Chinese-English. I’m certain this is true, because although I can read it well enough now, I cannot even begin to dream up something like what I saw in a liquor store the other day—a precise replica of a Johnny Walker bottle, branded with the name “Red Labial.” The volume of it all is overwhelming, like having too many smart things to laugh at in a Woody Allen movie. I’m not complaining, mind you. I’m not making fun, either, because I do genuinely appreciate the effort at stringing together some Roman letters in this foreign sea of swirling, complex pictographs. In so many cases, the Chinese language is simply too poetic, too rich in ancient metaphor to translate neatly into English. The sign in the Shanghai subway that reads, “You should help others with wisdom and courage when you find the pickpockets” should inspire in me some much needed civic bravery, but instead I just elbow my wife and take a picture of it while some kid lifts a 50 Yuan note out of my back pocket. Similarly, the efficiency potential of instructional English is lost entirely when the sign for a hands-free bathroom faucet is printed in the style of a Confucian philosophical statement. A sensitive tap, one needn’t touch it. Same meaning I suppose, with a bit more personal introspection. If one touches the sensitive tap, even when one needn’t touch it, what exactly are they over-compensating for? In complete contrast, there’s tons of stuff that’s clearly been translated word for word from the Chinese to English Dictionary, rendering it completely useless. I saw a billboard the other day that attempted to explain one of the enticements of an upcoming festival event. It read:
The promoted cycle we will bestow 500 “The Night Scene To Appreciate The Liquor Water Monetary Equivalent Ticket” will obtain the tourist will allowed to receive 30 Yuan characteristics liquors water jacket meal in the scenic area assigned location, will limit 500 everyday, will deliver up to!
I realized at the moment of reading this that I still have so much to learn. And I can’t speak for other tourists, but I can’t ever get enough of the museum signs that say, “Do not stroke the works.” Not touching something in a museum never sounded so dirty nor so appealing. One stroke couldn’t hurt, could it? C’mon. Just one stroke. Just one.
Very yours in sincerity,
From: MAtt Baer
Date: Fri, Mar 2, 2012
Subject: Death Star Trash Compactor as a tactical consideration
It is important to remember that the Death Star is a military vessel, and that even an interstellar base of such size may find itself in a situation requiring stealth. Since the Death Star undoubtedly produces large amounts of refuse, a clever enemy might be able to reconstruct past movements and project imperial intent. A sort of disgusting trail of bread crumbs.
This is why the Empire needs to consider seriously the tactics of waste disposal of the Death Star, firstly by reducing the matter ejected (via the worm creature), secondly by storing the material and releasing it only occasionally, and preferably irregularly (so as to make the path markers harder to find), and lastly by reducing the size of the dumps via compaction (so to make the radar signature smaller).
I hope this helps clear matters up.
From: Tim Hundsdorfer
Date: Thu, Mar 1, 2012
Subject: Death Star Trash Compactor
How did such drivel pass through a peer review process?
The system is implausible, but not because of the reasons cited.
The first problem is the implausibility of such an inefficient and wasteful system to begin with. Sure, the Empire has sufficient technological resources to create a massive space station and propel it through hyperspace, but rely on a waste system which can best be described as “medieval.” Given the extreme logistical problems of providing a million people with water, it defies imagination to believe that the Empire’s waste- water reclamation systems are inferior to NASA’s. And the very idea of ejecting human waste into space in a liquid form can only come from minds lacking sufficient imagination to explain the efficacy of a “light sabre.” Space is COLD. If you eject liquid waste into space, pardon my lack of finesse, your ship will quickly be coated in frozen shit. Because matter gravitates toward mass, you would have to forcibly eject waste away from the Death Star. Given that it is as massive as a moon, crap would have to be projected away at considerable velocity to escape the Death Star’s gravitational pull. It’s quite clear that with it’s formidable technological advances, the Empire would have a reclamation facility on the Death Star to obviate the need for massive transfers of water to the station. Is that gross? Yes, but we all live downstream from somebody.
Vents to the brig from trash compactors would seem to be both a security breach and an unnecessarily complicated engineering project. If you have vents that lead to a waste facility (whether this is utilitarian or spiteful, as some other reviewers have suggested) and the facility is periodically ejected (compacted or no) you have to have a way to seal off the vents to prevent a hull breach, which, one assumes, would be a serious problem, regardless of the technology level.
The idea that the compactor is not a spatially compacting cube is lubricious. If you are going to compact anything, having a space where you could allow a space maggot to live and (evidently) thrive would only create a space to relieve the pressure of compaction until it was full, which, considering the size of a Death Star, would not take very long. If the compaction system were not closed, there is no reason to compact the waste at all as it will simply disintegrate into the vacuum of space, again, simply sticking to the side of the Death Star unless it were projected at escape velocity.
However, in all of this we are assuming that a certain level of diligence and planning characterized the construction of the Death Star. If we have learned anything from defense contracting here on Earth, we know this is hopelessly fallacious. In all probability, the waste system was the result of a subcontract awarded based on contributions to Imperial Senate elections. Sure, they could have developed a closed loop system free of vermin that was not connected to any detention facilities, but why bother to develop systems like this on a facility that is, essentially, going to blast planets to smithereens and create an interstellar wasteland anyway? We all know about the technical deficiencies inherent in the Death Star anyway, re: vulnerability to small craft, necessity to wait until clearing a line of sight and, evidently, a rather static firing mechanism. So it seems probable that the Death Stars garbage compactor is every bit as plausible as a $200 million fighter jet that can’t fly in the rain (aka F-22).
The workman’s comp liability from having bridges over chasms with no handrails is far more implausible than a primitive trash compactor.
— Tim Hundsdorfer
From: Tim Streisel
Date: Thu, Feb 23, 2012
Subject: Re: Death Star Garbage Compactor
Not that I am authorized to speak for the Empire, or his Imperial Majesty, George Lucas… but I would like to offer rebuttal to the points made in your argument about the plausibility of the trash compactors on the Death Star.
Issue No. 1 deals with the vent that Princess Leia finds. You argue that there is no reason to vent the stench of rotting material in such a manner. I remind you that the vent lead to the detention blocks, and could have been installed out of pure spite, in an attempt to make the inmates lives just that much more uncomfortable. The Empire was big on spite, ya know
Issue No. 2 assumes that compaction efficiency is the priority. However if the priority is speed of the compaction cycle, then movable opposing walls make sense.
Issue No. 3: Many types of equipment use linkages that vary the speed/force through the motion cycle. It seems that the compactor walls could have that type of linkage, as the force needed for compaction would grow as the walls move inward and more trash is compacted. The slowing down of the compactor you seen may very well been designed into the system. I notice that the compactor never jammed or stopped till R2 halted it.
Issue No. 4: Remember that R2 did indeed halt the compaction cycle, so we have no way of knowing if the other two walls or ceiling/floor would move as the next stage of the cycle. Most car crusher work with a 2 or 3-stage cycle like that.
Issue No. 5: The design/size of the floor is never shown, but based on what is shown when Luke is pulled under the water, the case can be made about the floor being a platform that is smaller than the area of the room. It is possible that all refuse, once compacted is allowed to sink to the bottom of the pool of water for disposal or processing. If designed properly, any piece small enough to pass through the gap between wall and floor would be small enough for downstream processing equipment to handle.
Issue No. 6: The Death Star is a military base. One system is more reliable and uses less manpower to operate and maintain than two. On a civilian installation, where quality of life is the priority, separate systems make sense, but not for a military one.
Issue No. 7: The Empire obviously could care less for the distinction between organic and inorganic waste. Its primary sanitation objective is to remove any and all waste from the facility. You also assume that the Empire actually put the worm into the system. It could very well be a product of some larva that was discarded and pupated in the waste system. This is not unheard of here on Earth.
Issue No. 8: Sanitation ships equals recourses and manpower to run them, for little or no gain over simply jettisoning garbage. If the Empire had even the slightest glimmer of a ecological movement in its ranks, it would be very simple to arrange the jettisoned garbage into a decaying orbit around a star.
Issue No. 9: The Death Star would surely make a tremendous amount of waste. And true, space is infinite. But manpower is not. Compacting the trash means fewer jettison cycles. That would also be the reason for speed to be the priority for the operation of the compactors (hence the two moving walls) rather than compaction efficiency. The unknown question is whether or not operating/maintaining the compactors uses less manpower than running more jettison cycles.
As far as creating hassles for the Empire… You rebel scum!
Imperial (no kidding), Missouri
From: Michael Lewis
Date: Sun, Feb 19, 2012
Subject: Death Star trash compactor
Hi, I’m only writing this because as of this minute, I have literally nothing better to do. I stumbled across your article by accident, and being a Star Wars fan (albeit one grounded in reality) I felt it warranted a read. I can’t believe I’m doing this, but, I wanted to make 2 points:
1) I’m gonna go out on a limb here and guess that while Star Destroyers dump their garbage before light speed, it’s possible that the Death Star has to recycle its material due primarily to its massive size (if I remember correctly, a Star Destroyer is 1.6 km long, with a crew of 50,000, and the Death Star is 128 km across with a crew of over a million people—I’m proud that I even kind of know that). It seems like resupplying the Death Star would be a massively inefficient undertaking (the Empire’s attitude towards the environment aside, they are pretty efficient, as you said). Also, given the somewhat ‘secret’ nature of the Death Star, they probably wouldn’t want to impose a predictable resupply schedule on it, so as to prevent possible strikes against it. You could argue that the Battle of Yavin would shoot a hole in that theory, except that Grand Moff Tarkin willingly put the Death Star at the Rebellion’s doorstep, so I still maintain that a routine resupply schedule would’ve been a detriment to the safety of the Death Star (then again, so was having an easily accessible exhaust port, but that’s a whole other thing).
2) Regarding the creature, while I’m not entirely sure why it’s there either, I’m gonna guess at two things:
- A) If the Death Star does reclaim as much of its material as possible, then it would make sense to have an organism in there aiding with the reclamation and sanitation of the water in there (the same way they use bacterial slime to clean drinking water – gross, but it is a possibility maybe?).
- B) With regards to its being crushed by the walls (which, yeah,totally should’ve been one-sided), there is that loud clanging sound, which, now that I think about it could’ve been the walls starting up, but I always thought it was a gate through which that creature entered the compactor opening and closing, thereby provided the necessary escape prior to crushingness.
And now that my virginity has apparently grown back, I shall go play Bioshock until my eyes bleed.
Keep writing. I enjoyed your article,
From: Jessica Lahey
Date: Thu, Feb 16, 2012
Subject: Re: Half a Life
Thank you, thank you.
To whomever made the layout and editorial decisions on "Darin Strauss’ Half a Life.
I am an English teacher and writer, and I TRY to explain to my students that factors such as diction, syntax, and FORMATTING can affect the meaning in a piece of writing, but it’s always been hard to find an example of successful and brave formatting. I usually have to rely on examples of lame concrete poetry.
And then, THEN, I was able to show them and read excerpts of Half a Life to my young wards, and they were so impressed. 8th graders, impressed by formatting.
Bravo. And bravo.
Best, and again, thank you.
— Jess Lahey
From: M Ryan Purdy
Date: Mon, Jan 30, 2012
Subject: Business Days
Twelve years ago, I submitted this list to you, which ran in your fine publication.
Well, even though a lot has happened over the years, I just wanted you to know that I stand by what I wrote.
Thank you, and take care of yourselves.
M. Ryan Purdy
Date: Sat, Jan 28, 2012
I need to publish my memoir book on healing and eventually get on a talk show—I would like to know more about publishing through your company.
Please feel free to contact me at [phone number redacted].
From: Randy Thompson
Date: Thu, Jan 26, 2012
Am Mr Randy Thompson and i will like to order Hair Dryer 1200 Watts from your company, can i have their price and the method of payment you do accept, I wish to start business with your good company so i look forward for your valued reply ASAP.
Have a nice day !
From: Tommy Bronsted
Date: Wed, Jan 25, 2012
Subject: I love you.
There. I said it. When class get’s boring or I’m not feeling too great—I go straight to McSweeney’s. It makes my day time and time again, and I just wanted to thank you so much for keeping it going. You guys are my heroes. I realize you don’t write all the content on McSweeney’s—but that’s part of the reason why I think it’s so great.
You guys are enablers—you take good writing and deliver it to people like me who wouldn’t have found it. I can’t get enough of this.
So I love you guys.
From: T. Feeney
Date: Fri, Jan 20, 2012
Subject: Gorilla Girl
Is the whole thing over? Am I too late? Or was it all a joke? I should have known. I mean really, firstname.lastname@example.org? Why would you seriously set up a separate email account for this nonsense? Well, since I actually took the time to respond to your questions and was immediately rebuked by the Mail Delivery Subsystem, I feel compelled to send it to you here.
Mr. Eli Horowitz, et. al.,
I realize that this is an old topic. Sorry, I’m just catching up on lots of Small Chair stuff. In addition, I’m only about 1/4 through the Art issue of The Believer and just yesterday managed to get through the letters of McSweeney’s #38. I know, I’ve had #39 for a few weeks now. Anyway, for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts:
Did Ryan W. Bradley write this story? I would like to think he did. Given the fact that the other two of only three responses to your Gorilla Girl query have not panned out, I figure why not? But it is highly suspect that his computer happened to crash at about the same time, giving him no actual copy of his work. Plus aren’t kids these days using DropBox and the “cloud” and shit like that for everything? Maybe he was too drunk. I would put the odds of him having been the actual author of the story at about, well, 1 in 3.
Is it possible to write twenty-five coherent pages and remember nothing? A week ago I would have said no. I know from experience that alcohol impedes fine motor skills to such an extent that physically constructing a simple sentence, whether the medium be pen and paper or keyboard or even speaking into Voice Record on an iPhone, is often downright impossible. However, last weekend I had an experience that makes me think that it might be probable to not only formulate cohesive thoughts but, given the right amount of time and steady state of inebriation, pound out as many as twenty-five pages.
See I was in an online forum posting in a thread about the NHL. And I was drinking. A lot. Truth be told I was in the middle of what some call a blackout. I am not proud of this. It just turns out I don’t remember about three hours of this particular evening. The topic at hand in the thread had turned to the names of teams and one poster, after chiding me about the name of the particular team of which I am a fanatic, stated the following,
“Well… at least it’s not the Hurricanes. Or the Wild. Or the Thrash… oh, right.”
My reply was,
“Thanks for substantiating my theory that the local farming lobby is behind this.”
Now when I saw this much later, I immediately thought that I had been hacked and somebody else wrote that sentence using my account and avatar. I even edited the post to state as much. While it doesn’t appear to be addressing the post to which it was in reply, on close examination you may note that given the proper context, it is a fairly coherent sentence. Aside from the fact that I don’t know what any local farming lobby would have to do with the naming of professional hockey teams (indeed I’m am not even aware of the existence of any local farming lobby whatsoever), I can’t for the life of me figure out how that got into my head. The only answer was that I had arrived at a point of intoxication whereby I was able to think and communicate but was not exactly lucid.
So basically, yes, it is possible to write twenty-five coherent pages and remember nothing. Have you suggested asking Ryan W. Bradley to get hammered and try to remember some details of the story in that manner? You know, state-dependent learning and all that? You might want to run that by your legal department first.
If he didn’t write it, who did? Someone else.
If our generation is a giant pouncing feline, what kind of feline is it? Maybe an ocelot? I have to wonder exactly what you mean by “our.” Do you mean you and I? You and Ryan W. Bradley? All three of us? How old are you anyway? Not that I’m really asking, that would be rude. I suppose your age may be irrelevant. I’m pretty sure that myself and Ryan W. Bradley are not of the same generation. I say this because he is in college, probably in his first or second year because he lives in the dorms. I was in college twenty years ago and had already upgraded to apartment style living because what self respecting junior would live in the dorms?
What exactly is the cutoff for a “generation” anyway? I’ve been told that I am part of Generation X, although some of my older friends say that I am not because they believe one had to be born prior to Woodstock to claim that particular generation. I was born some months after that event.
In any case, I suppose Ryan W. Bradley’s generation could be an ocelot. Though ocelots are not exactly giant, I would go for Maine hunting cat over an ocelot. But my generation isn’t either. We are a fucking tiger!
Hope this helps!
— T. Feeney
From: Dr. Patrick Price
Date: Fri, Jan 20, 2012
Subject: Regarding sacrifice to Quetazalcoatl
Stone blades are sharpened by chipping tiny fragments from the edge via a technique called knapping. A whetstone is use to sharpen a metal blade by realigning the cutting surface and filing away the roughness at the edge. The memo was very entertaining otherwise.
— Pat Price
From: Anna Dechert
Date: Sun, Jan 8, 2012
Subject: Additional emoticon
I’d like to introduce you to my personal favorite in new emoticons, the winky-frown:
While I understand that this probably won’t be added to any lists, I hope that you can use it around the office for those moments when a frown is too harsh and a wink is too flirty.
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