Date: Fri, 16 Oct 2009
From: Scott Rodd
Subject: A Disconcerting Cover

Dear McSweeney’s,

I recently purchased a copy of The Better of McSweeney’s Volume One Issues 1-10, and although I am very pleased with its content and outstanding writing, I withhold several gripes concerning one aspect of the journal: the cover.

For those of you who do not own this McSweeney’s release, or are unfamiliar with the specific cover I am regarding, I will gladly describe it as to not exclude anyone. The cover contains an inanimate (I hope), brown, moist, non-patterned blob against a bright white background. This blob is very apparent; that is, it can be easily seen (measuring about six inches long and four inches wide), much more so than the inconspicuous, near-fine-print of “Stories and Letters” below it. I have come to terms with this blob and accept it. In my mind, it is merely a half-masticated, discarded Tootsie Roll. However, my uneasiness concerns the preconceptions of those unfamiliar with McSweeney’s. My main two discontents are as follows:

1. At first sight, ill-conceived judgments may be passed about McSweeney’s solely based on this cover. Consequently, due to these callous assumptions made by the uninformed, McSweeneys Quarterly Concern/Literary Journal may be misconstrued as McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern for Inanimate Objects Which Resemble Fecal Matter. Obviously, this would be bad for publicity, but moreover, it strays away from the true purpose of this publication. I assume.

2. When reading this edition of the Concern, I am often the victim of bewildered and slightly disgusted looks. This prompts me to immediately point out that the publication is dedicated to literature, damn fine literature at that, and that the cover just comes with the territory. This isn’t to say I am ashamed of the cover, or discriminate against the expression of any artist or cover designer. I just don’t like being victimized; and beyond that, I don’t like feeling an obligation to talk to people.

Now, this letter may be deemed as just some pedant kid with too much time on his hands. To this I say: yes. But I retort: pedantry is an art form and living entity; and free time its canvas and niche.

Well, that’s about it. I hope this was helpful. But even if it was, don’t take anything I’ve said here too seriously or too much to heart, because you guys are doing great. Matter of fact, you’re doing magnificent; regardless of exposé-ing objects that mirror stool.

Scott Rodd

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Date: Sun, 9 Aug 2009
From: Lorenzo Alunni
Subject: Siddhartha


Yesterday I watched the movie Juno (dubbed in Italian) and I discovered that the reference to McSweeney’s (quoted in the first part of the movie) had been replaced with Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.

I said: “Noooooooo!”

Lorenzo Alunni

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Date: Mon, 15 Jun 2009
From: Andrew Coltrin
Subject: RE: Yub Jub Does Not Mean “Devour the Weak”

Dear McSweeney’s,

As someone who spent many a fourth grade lunch hour insisting that Ewoks were not George Lucas’s attempt at capturing some of the Care Bears market share, I applaud this piece of revisionist history that brings to light the vicious nature of the beasts I totally saw boiling the skulls of Stormtroopers back in the summer of ‘83. It’s sad that some fans, like Don Kuntz [see letter below], cannot appreciate this alternative xenopomorphic survey of the cutest thing Star Wars fans had to endure until Jake Lloyd made everyone want to smack Anakin Skywalker for being such a precocious snot.

Regarding the lengths Mr. Kuntz went to in refuting the findings of this study, I suggest he broaden the scope of his research beyond that found in the official archives of the New Republic (and Steve Sansweet’s basement). Perhaps Mr. Kuntz might be enlightened by Dez Mondmor-Iss’ book The Naked Ewok.

Andrew Coltrin

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Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2009
From: Don Kuntz
Subject: Yub Jub Does Not Mean “Devour the Weak”

In response to your article ["Yub Jub Means “Devour the Weak”: An Authoritative Study of Ewoks, From the Field Notes of Davo Atten-Boru and Pladdo Cardigun, Exo-naturalists"] I would like to point out that you are mistaken on several facts.

1. You wouldn’t be a member of the Republic Science Academy. You might be from the new Republic Science Academy or the Galactic Alliance Science Academy, but since the Forest Moon of Endor was never explored by the Republic, the first official exploration team came from the Empire between the years 2ABY and 4ABY. (By 5ABY the Death Star II was half completed, so they must of had at least one year to work on that beast). While many crashes were known to have taken place on the Sanctuary Moon, and a few bases manned by people outside of the Republic (such as the Confederacy of Independent Systems), no exploration teams ever met with the native populations until the Imperial Survey. (Also: While I see you state the New Republic gave you a grant, you would never call the New Republic the “Republic” because they sought to differentiate themselves, so they call themselves the New Republic and the pre-imperial one the Old Republic, never saying just “Republic” in the post-imperial galaxy.)

2. You wouldn’t have had a droid named C3QP, the C in C-3PO is the model. Cybot Galactica never created a 3QP line of Protocol Droids, and nobody ever made a C3 line of droids.

3. Ewoks are NOT cannibalistic. In all offshoot media, the Ewoks NEVER eat anyone − they even befriend the Towani family, a group of humans stranded on Endor. And in the movie [The Return of the Jedi], the only reason they tied the strike team to logs was because it was the easiest way to transport them. The big pot in their village is not for the team, but for the animals they were trying to capture when the team ended up in their traps.

4. What the hell are you talking about when you say “a ritualistic devouring of 34 captured Imperial storm troopers, who were spit-roasted alive in their armor for seli beli (”to seal in the flavor") and tanga tiru (“divine tang of mortal fear”), a delicacy to the Ewok palate"? That didn’t happen, that wouldn’t happen. Where are you getting your facts? Your retranslations are off, and wrong, and you need a new droid, one that actually knows more than six million types of communication, as oppose to one that’s assuming it knows what it doesn’t.

5. There is no such thing as a “blood duel.” Watch the Ewoks’ animated TV series; they never fight with each other. EWOKS ARE PEACEFUL!

I don’t even want to continue. Your article is so wrong that it’s an insult to Star Wars fans − even if it was meant in good humor.

− DK

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Date: Mon, 4 May 2009
From: Kin E.
Subject: The Great Book Blockade of 2009

I’ve read the article by Robin Hemley about the recent decision of Philippine Customs to tax books, and I quite agree with his point. What disturbs me, though, is Mr. Hemley’s statement about G20 blacklisting the Philippines is misleading (and inaccurate). The G20 blacklisted the Philippines (together with Malaysia, Costa Rica and Uruguay) because Philippine laws make it hard to open bank records of individuals; tax standards in the country are different, not because of “corrupt practices” as you are leading your readers to believe. You should have also noted that the blacklist was removed already. And personally, Switzerland and the rest of those tiny European states have more morally questionable banking practices than the Philippines, having hidden billions of dollars stolen by dictators such as Marcos.

Kin E.

Robin Hemley responds:

When I wrote the piece several months ago, the designation had not been removed. This seems a bit of a “not seeing the forest for the trees situation.” While on this point, the letter writer might be technically correct, the larger point is that the Philippines is and remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world, and is considered such by the vast majority of its own people, who suffer the greed of government officials. Virtually every week, a new corruption scandal hits the front pages of the newspapers in the Philippines, each example more egregious than the last. The G20 news just happened to be the story of the week when I wrote up my dispatch.

Happily, the vast majority of people who read my piece have responded positively. The dispatch has received the strongest, most enthusiastic reaction of anything I’ve written to date. I state this not to pat myself on the back but to give kudos to the thousands of ordinary Filipinos who have spoken out against the Bureau of Customs’ defiance of an international treaty (The Florence Agreement) that the Philippines signed in 1952 and ratified in 1979. Hundreds of bloggers reposted and commented on my dispatch. That led to an article in the Philippine Inquirer by prominent newspaper columnist, Manuel L. Quezon III. That led to more blogging and a Facebook cause, “Filipinos against the Taxation of Books by Customs,” that has recruited over 8000 members (and counting) in the span of a week. Now, Congressman Teodoro Lacson, Jr., has appealed directly to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to overturn the capricious tax imposed by Customs, and most recently Senator and Chairwoman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Miriam Santiago has called for an investigation of Customs.

Considering the positive impact of the dispatch, I hope you’ll understand that I admire the Philippines greatly, especially its millions of honest and hardworking citizens.

Robin Hemley

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Date: Mon, 27 Apr 2009
From: Mandi D.
Subject: My “Reading-Tour Rider” baking experiment

So, I read “My Reading-Tour Rider” the other day and found the idea of the “Peanut Butter Pornography” cookies absolutely amazing. Apparently, the recipe for those cookies doesn’t really exist, so I had to get creative and make it up myself … and they were amazing. The best part was taking them to my mom and telling her what they were called.

Thanks for the inspiration.


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Date: Fri, 27 Feb 2009
From: Dan S.
Subject: James Brown

Dearest Tendency,

I am writing to add some thoughts to Mr. Hart’s channeled recommendations from the late Mr. Brown on investment opportunities in today’s troubled economy. But, first, a caveat: I am not a certified accountant, hedge-fund manager, broker, or Fox News commentator, nor even an apprentice plumber, but I do feel that Mr. Hart’s portfolio needs some diversification to remain competitive.

Specifically, we have yet to heed the late Mr. Brown’s advice to “get up off of that thing,” as well as to “dance till you feel better.” In these uncertain times, it is important to remember that hard work and perseverance have always helped to pull America up by its proverbial bootstraps, even if they were manufactured in China and sold at Walmart at a 20 percent discount. That, and being able to profit off needless wars. Mr. Brown’s feelings on the latter option are, I believe, well known, and an ethical reinvestment plan should reflect this.

Hope things work out with the spaniel,
Dan S.