Date: Tue, 20 November 2007
From: Matt Rogers
Subject: Referee Ed Hochuli

Dear McSweeney’s, and/or Mr. Frank Ferri,

If you are going to write a humorous piece about NFL referee, trial lawyer, and strongman Ed Hochuli and present it in four parts, please ensure that none of those four parts is based on a nonexistent premise—namely, that a pass-interference call can be challenged by the defense thus penalized. Any red-blooded NFL fan knows that defensive pass interference (or any penalty, for that matter) is not a challengeable ruling, as it is a judgment call by the referee. I ask that Mr. Ferri be forced to provide a more accurate humorous combination of penalty call and legal parlance as a reparation to all who were harmed by his poor choice and do not feel sufficiently entertained.


Matt Rogers
Waltham, MA

Frank Ferri responds:

Mr. Rogers,

Thank you for pointing out my error. In my blind rush to be funny, I ignored the time-honored rules of the NFL and have punished myself accordingly.

I guess I can take solace in the fact that I am not alone. One only has to look to the New England Patriots, who, in their quest to be the best, also ignored the rules. (Just to clarify, I’m referring to “Videotapegate.”)

Perhaps there should be an asterisk next to my McSweeney’s piece.

Frank Ferri

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Date: Wed, 19 Sept 2007
From: Kasey Harrison
Subject: Euphemisms for Taking a Crap

Dear McSweeney’s,

As I read your current list written by Kevin Griffith, “Iraq-War Clichés or New Euphemisms for Taking a Crap,” I remembered something that happened over this previous summer. I was teaching at a debate camp and was instructing the students to find better buzzwords for their cases. For example, using the word “justice” instead of “fairness” and the like. The junior staffers at this camp are all college-aged students and were sitting in the back row of the classroom playing on the Internet, sending text messages and so forth, when I used the following example:

Instead of using the word “duty,” you could use the term “moral imperative.”

We all know that “duty” and “moral imperative” mean the same thing, so why not make it sound more important by calling a duty a moral imperative. The junior staffers all seemed interested in this, judging by the many whispered conversations that started and the laughing that followed. They were becoming a nuisance to the rest of the class, so I asked them what they were laughing about. The eldest statesman of the group said, “Oh, I just need to ask a question.”

“What is it?” I replied.

“Mr. Harrison, can I go to the restroom? I need to take a moral imperative.”

Much raucous laughing and gasping ensued.

I say all this to humbly add my cliché to the list:

We have a moral imperative to finish what we started in Iraq.

Kasey Harrison

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Date: Thur, 12 July 2007
From: Matt Bull
Subject: Errata Overload

Dear McSweeney’s,

If you thought that an online literary/humor journal would be far enough beyond the reach of obsessive, humorless mega-nerd types to safely publish a gross miscarriage of modern astrophysics like “Recently Declassified Letters From NASA” with impunity, then I’m the humorless nerd to set you straight. Keeping silent would only concede another battle to the Republicans in their war on science. So get ready for a factsplosion. Single-cellular life in another galaxy? Do you even know what a galaxy is? We can barely detect planets in our own galaxy, much less ones in freaking Andromeda. The extra-solar planets we have spotted (and only indirectly, mind you, by detecting the gravitational wobble they induce on their parent stars) orbit stars within a few hundred light-years of us. And that’s damn close, in case you’re too lazy to look into it on your own—Andromeda, for reference, is about 2.5 million light-years away, which makes it roughly 280 billion roundtrip-NASA-probe-years away. Anyway, I could go on, but I’m starting to foam at the … knees? That’s weird. Screw it, I’m going on. Why not pick a star system like Gliese 581 or HD 189733? Those have even been in the news recently. Putting aside the absurdity of finding a planet in Andromeda and of detecting its damn atmosphere (and, by the way, helium is inert, so elevated levels would be biologically irrelevant, not to mention that a planet with enough gravity to keep helium in its atmosphere would be too massive to support life—oh, and elevated nitrogen is another so-the-hell-what, since our own atmosphere is mostly nitrogen), what the crap kind of device do you think NASA used to spot a fucking Andromedan amoeba? A giant telescope duct-taped to a giant microscope??? Where’s my inhaler?

Anyway, remember how you felt when the Abu Ghraib pictures came out and exactly no one was held accountable? I can’t do that again. I expect some damn heads to roll.

Matt Bull

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Date: Tue, 10 July 2007
From: Matt Cole
Subject: Giant Caper: rebuttal


I must take exception to Kate Taylor’s characterization of the giant caper. Put another way, she gets it largely correct. The caper berry (for it is under this name that I know it) is a salty mistress, and not to everyone’s taste.

I’ve been known to eat them by the handful (one at a time, of course: I’m not a complete savage) and to place them in a martini. Wikipedia tells me I’m not alone in the latter habit. And, yes, I realize that the garnish makes it technically something other than a martini, but I’m not here to debate that.

I’m here to represent an opposing opinion on caper berries, which, as salty pickled things, can generally do no wrong in my loving eyes. I’ll have yours if you don’t like them. It’s a great big pickled tent.

Matt Cole

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Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2007
From: Jack Pendarvis
Subject: Dolly Parton is good

Dear McSweeney’s,

In a recent “list,” the “listmaker” implies that he would use the playing of Dolly Parton albums to torture someone. To him I say, “Bring it on.” Nothing would tickle me more than to hear a number of Dolly Parton albums in a row. Ms. Parton is widely acknowledged as a fine songwriter, not to mention a thoughtful interpreter of other peoples’ work. Her recent forays into bluegrass provide an excellent example of both aspects of Ms. Parton’s particular creative gifts.

Jack Pendarvis

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Date: Wed, 11 Apr 2007
From: Kyle Johnson
Subject: RE: Another Night With Jim

Dear McSweeney’s,

I just got through reading “Another Night With Jim” by Damian Dressick. While I certainly found the story enjoyable (thinking about a grizzly bear polishing floors had me smirking for at least half a minute), I take issue with Dressick’s depiction of the kind people of Minnesota. It is indeed true that many ‘Sotans use an atypical flattened o sound for words and phrases like “cola” or “whatever floats your boat,” but I’ve never met a true Minnesotan (of which there are many in northern Minnesota, where I assumed Jim would be headed) that used the word “cola.” As everyone knows, “pop” is the preferred nomenclature. Jim, therefore, has nothing to worry about, as he will never hear anyone utter the word “cola.” He may, however, have to hear the words “rote,” “emote,” and “connote,” which are all heavily used by northern Minnesotan intellectuals.

Little Kyle

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Date: Mon, 2 Apr 2007
From: Nick Johnson
Subject: The Last Waltz vs. Stop Making Sense

Dear McSweeney’s,

Yes, it’s true that without The Last Waltz, Jonathan Demme would have never thought about making the masterpiece that is Stop Making Sense. This debate can go on for hours, and if McSweeney’s would just return my phone calls and drop the restraining order, then it would rage on for hours. I think one major factor is being grossly overlooked here, and that is a movie called Big Time.

It could be argued that this collaboration between the otherwise unknown Chris Blum and the otherwise legendary Tom Waits isn’t just a concert film but rather a series of vignettes with some concert footage throughout. Whatever. It’s Tom motherfucking Waits. It’s the closest I may ever come to seeing the man in concert, and he’s still releasing albums, unlike the Heads and the Band. Come on, McSweeney’s … it’s Tom Waits.

Also, you were spot on about Rick Danko. He was an amazing talent and a tragic story.

Call me!
Nick Johnson

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Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2007
From: Ryan Kailath
Subject: cleaning your glasses

Dear McSweeney’s,

In regard to your recommendation of Kleenex Tissue With Lotion: Why would you clean your glasses with tissue in the first place? This was very disappointing.

1. Warm water
2. Hand soap
3. Soft cotton T-shirt

Love (is blind),

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Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2007
From: Alison Eldridge
Subject: RE: Recommendation of Half Nelson

Dear McSweeney’s:

I agree that Half Nelson is quite possibly the best film of last year. But, seriously, why the bejesus is it called Half Nelson? I’ve been asking everyone I know for weeks. The checkout guy at the grocery store is sick of me talking about it, to say nothing of my boyfriend’s response last time I tried to bring it up (for, like, the 30th time).

Please help me. My personal relationships are suffering.


Alison Eldridge
Olympia, WA

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Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2007
From: Michael Huppe
Subject: Patrick Cassel’s List

Dear McSweeney’s,

While I wouldn’t go as far as agreeing with Steven Shattuck that the movie Heat was “fantastic,” I have to concur that Patrick Cassel’s List entitled “Words Never Used in the Titles of Remotely Good Films” is seriously flawed. Ever heard of the movie The Ice Storm? Come on. It was fantastic!

Seriously concerned about your screening process while remaining your loyal reader,
Michael Huppe

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Date: Mon, 5 Mar 2007
From: Nathaniel Logar
Subject: emoticons!

Dear McSweeney’s,

Check out these new emoticons I’ve invented (happy face!). These things are the best (happy face). Not only am I able to perfectly convey emotion without using all those hard words the English language gave us (confused face, with an adorable little brow wrinkle), but you don’t need to go through all the effort of trying to figure out what the goddamn things say (angry face). It also affords a larger range of emotions than the standard set of punctuation gives you (a face that looks like it’s thinking hard about describing a fine wine, but is actually just a little sleepy). I think these things are the awesomest (happy face, again). How do you feel about them (inquisitive face)?

Solid! (with the face of a white man trying to look cool using this word)

Nat Logar (proud-of-myself face)

P.S. I just found out a friend of mine has the clap (uncomfortable face, but there might be a hint of schadenfreude in there). He did get around a bit (laughing-out-loud face).

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Date: Fri, 2 Mar 2007
From: Steven Shattuck
Subject: Response to Patrick Cassel’s List

Dear McSweeney’s,

I am writing in response to Patrick Cassel’s List entitled “Words Never Used in the Titles of Remotely Good Films.”

Have you seen the film Heat with Robert De Niro and Al Pacino? It’s fantastic!

Steven Shattuck

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Date: Tue, 27 Feb 2007
From: Brian Garrison
Subject: Patterns, patterns, everywhere!

Dear McSweeney’s,

While scrolling about on the bottom of your site where the miscellaneous links wait so tidily to be clicked, I was noticing that they almost seem to have a pattern. The first set (from “Red dot denotes content that is new today” to the first “--”) appears to be a short, squat bowling pin wearing a sombrero, a bow tie, and an overly tight cummerbund, or else a downward-pointing arrow, for the less imaginative. Making sense of the second set proves to be a little harder. From the first “--” to “B.R. Cohen’s Annals of Science,” I kinda see a person sitting in a bowl with a pilgrim hat smushed down tightly on his head, with a Cat in the Hat hat on top of that. As for the rest, it’s kind of a mess. But if you really want to push it, it looks a little like someone doing a headstand. He looks a little squished, because all the stuff piled on top is crushing him.

So I was wondering, did you do this on purpose?

Skeptically yours,
Brian Garrison

Editor’s Note: No.

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Date: Fri, 9 Feb 2007
From: Keegan Peterson
Subject: Gift Cards Gone Too Far

Dear McSweeney’s,

After an exhausting go of buying a bundle of gift cards as last-minute Christmas gifts (I got to choose what gift-card design I wanted at most stores—does the fact that I chose, say, a googly-eyed-reindeer graphic over a dancing snowman make a gift card more personal?), I thought I’d finally be able to put plastic presents behind me (until next year, anyway). As impersonal as they are, I have to admit that the convenience factor is appealing. At least a LongHorn Steakhouse gift card saved me from buying my grandpa another bag of peanuts. And, honestly, in the retail world it’s like having a website or a business card: your store isn’t legit unless you offer a gift card. But, as Valentine’s Day approaches, I’ve noticed that, everywhere I go, stores are taking the opportunity to push the gift cards once again. A while back, I began to have a genuine curiosity about the whole phenomenon, alerting my significant other when a store as bizarre as the little-known salvage shop near our house offered gift certificates, just in case you couldn’t find that perfect piece of junk for that perfect someone. It’s nonsensical to give someone the gift of choosing their own salvaged trash, unless the person receiving the gift is into that sort of thing. But what’s even more nonsensical, and, well, rather disturbing, is what I discovered while getting my oil changed recently. While in the waiting room, amid unsmiling customers and Wheel of Fortune blaring on the TV, I saw a sticker in the window that said “Gift Cards Available.” That made me chuckle, because, jeez, what a lousy gift! But then I took notice of another sticker: a big plastic heart sticker in the window said “Gift Cards Available: The gift of an oil change for that special someone on Valentine’s.” What? I’m sure the gift of lube may be appealing to some on Valentine’s Day, but is it just me or has the gifting of gift cards gone too far?

Keegan Peterson

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Date: Fri, 2 February 2007
From: Krista Spiller
Subject: Boo Berry contains antioxidants.

Dear McSweeney’s,

I am writing in response to Jeff Alford’s review of “Eye-Popping Apple Jacks.” Never has a review of new food touched on my feelings so completely. I have yet to locate Count Chocula in the whole state of Maryland. They offer inadequate alternatives like Chocolate Lucky Charms, but these Count Chocula impostors lack the satisfying Transylvanian essence and send me into tantrums wherein I demand what I really yearn for: the single-fanged goodness of the Count. Like Mr. Alford, I have been forced to stock up on monster-themed cereals around Halloween, when they finally haunt shelves again. But it’s only February and I am already running low. The whole thing makes you wonder where they store all those cereals the rest of the year. Most likely, there’s some magical vault with little magical elves running around sprinkling magical dust. And by that I mean a warehouse in Newark with rats and dust mites. Let’s find that warehouse, Mr. Alford. We can beat this thing together.

Yours truly,
Krista Spiller

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Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2007
From: Karen Czmarko
Subject: McSweeney’s Recommends

Dear McSweeney’s,

I am writing in regard to your recent recommendation about “not showering for a day or two.” I am in full favor of not showering, but I take issue with your reasoning (“you’ve really been taking being clean for granted”). Not showering has so many other benefits that surely this is the least of them (and, really, I don’t even consider it one). One benefit would be not wasting water on an unnecessary shower each and every day. I mean, really, are most of us doing dirty, manual labor that requires a thorough scrubbing? I think not (and I point to America’s obesity problem as my evidence). Also, for those of us with dry skin, not showering allows your body to cope somewhat naturally without making you a slave to the lotion bottle. Finally, not showering is quite the time saver. In the morning, I am up and out the door in 15 minutes flat. Think about the extra sleep! And regarding the recommendation about taking baths, I do take baths and do not find myself to be “steeping in my own filth.”

Cordially (and on the second day of my no-shower cycle),
Karen Czmarko

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Date: Tue, 23 Jan 2007
From: Derek Mahlburg
Subject: Re: NBA


One, you guys really should not be having FreeDarko on your site if you’re going to ignore completely one of that site’s main tenets, that the regular season matters. Two, no basketball matters if you’re watching crappy teams like the Pistons and the Heat. My God, have you seen what Gilly has been doing in D.C. and what L.A., Phoenix, and Denver are rocking?


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Date: Mon, 8 Jan 2007
From: Nicholas Hanewinckel
Subject: Les Is More

Dearest McSweeney’s:

I generally find it rude to question the recommendations presented in “McSweeney’s Recommends.” After all, it is “McSweeney’s Recommends” and not “Nick Hanewinckel Recommends.” However, there are times when I feel comments are warranted, especially when it appears that the compilers of said list are not aware of better alternatives.

What it boils down to, McSweeney’s, is that you jumped on the Bear Grylls bandwagon too quickly. It’s understandable, given all the flash and dazzle with which Mr. Grylls peppers his show. I will even admit that his feats are impressive. However, this man is a well-trained adventure machine. He has trained with the British Navy and climbed Mount Everest, so his abilities are to be expected, given that he possesses (a) the aforementioned training and (b) a really cool knife. But where is the adventurer for the everyman? Where can the average Joe or Jane turn for inspiration? The answer is another Discovery Channel show, one called Survivorman, with host Les Stroud.

I don’t wish to start a consumer rivalry of Pepsi-Coke proportions, but Les Stroud is the real deal. He puts himself into simulations of real-life emergencies, such as a plane crash in the frozen Canadian wilderness and a motorcycle breakdown in the desert. From there, he survives for a week or more with only what a person in such a situation would have (and where Bear Grylls has a cool knife, Les has a harmonica). Les braves the harshest of conditions with courage and true Canadian politeness, even showing remorse at eating ensnared animals. Also, Les has released a self-titled music CD and helped produce music videos for Rush.

In conclusion, before you join the Grylls or Stroud camp, give Survivorman a shot. He once made a needle and thread out of a freakin’ agave plant, people. And he used nothing but his teeth!

Nick Hanewinckel

P.S. Bear Grylls sounds like a name for ursine hip-hop dentalware, not a respectable television host.

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Date: Tue, 2 Jan 2007
From: David Zeller
Subject: McSweeneys Recommends: 26

Dearest Friends,

I have found your recommendations both useful and informative and have delighted in telling them to my friends, who are also your friends. I mean, what sort of sadomasochist doesn’t like Cheap Trick? So, with all of this in mind, you can imagine my surprise when I saw your recommendation of the number 26. I felt it was fate, for, you see, I was headed to Vegas for my best friend’s wedding mere days after I read this. Plus, I, like your writer, don’t like playing the slots. So what do I do when I get to Vegas? I proceed directly to the roulette wheel, feeling that both fate and destiny (two sources I know now not to mess with) are on my side.

I slapped a crisp Franklin on the number 26. Then, thinking better of it, I put a 50 down on the opposite color (I don’t remember which was which now; those three minutes were a blur). Needless to say, when the ball stopped rolling around, it had landed on 00, a 1-in-I-don’t-even-know-how-many chance. I was devastated and, yes, I’ll admit it, a little upset at you, McSweeney’s. However, this quickly faded as I realized you were not the one to blame. I was out $150 and I had been in Vegas all of half an hour. Thankfully, I didn’t do much more gambling out there.

Now, sitting back in Minneapolis out $150, I don’t regret my decision. I just sort of wish you had recommended 00 instead.