Dear McSweeney’s,

Below was cut out of an interview I did with someone named Corky Quakenbush for an online magazine called ZineZone. Corky does stop-time animation and is a big fan of Ray Harryhausen.

Q: What other things are you doing?

CORKY: I’ve got a spec script I’m attached to with a writer named Jerry Mahoney—a parody of “Superman.”

Q: The guy’s name is Jerry Mahoney?


Q: Like in that show “Winchell Mahoney Time?”

CORKY: I guess.

Q: Did you ever watch that, with the marionettes? Jerry would drink something and it would pour right down the front of his shirt. I loved this show.

CORKY: Excellent.

Diana Fischer

- - -

Date: Wed, 2 Feb 2000
From: kevin ryan
Subject: I was wrong

Dear McSweeney’s,

I have not yet received an issue of my lifetime subscription (October). In the letter accompanying my check I took a cheap shot at my roommate and your lifelong friend, Grant Hyland. This is probably where the trouble started. I said he isn’t funny. Well, I was wrong.

Proof: Last summer Grant attended a wedding wearing a blue sportcoat and white pants, absorbing such a heavy ribbing from friends addressing him as ‘Captain Stubing’ that two days later he went out and bought an $800 suit. Funny.

A few weeks back Grant and his lovely girlfriend Rita put on their flannel pajamas and hunkered down in front of the tv to watch one of the Republican debates. They had softdrinks and sandwiches and made comments to the screen. Funny.

Lately Grant has been tearing through an early version of your book feverishly searching for any passages mentioning him. Funny.

I hope this clears up any misunderstanding. I would’ve written earlier, but, well, you know.

No hard feelings,
Kevin Ryan

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Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2000
Subject: Message from a drunk lady

I ditched work today. Bought a bottle of wine. I’ve had two or three glasses (1st wrote galles) so far – gon’na finish the whole thing and figure out who to send this too —today. Read U.S. News. About [I hate this damn MS Word. I did not need a cap on “about,” but it did it any way. Doesn’t it trust me to cap my own sentences!] McSweeney and love, intrigued me. I’m pretty smart too. I have 3 degrees – one J.D. The job sucks. I’m a black female having a mid-life crisis on Effexor. My husband’s (the second) is out of town; the kids are at school. What trouble can I get into? I need to make money staying at home. Will this work?

- - -

Dear McSweeney’s,

My name is Anthony Huberman, and I work at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York (please check for more info). Our first collaborative project with the Museum of Modern Art is called “Greater New York.” This exhibition will feature art by about 150 not-yet-established artists from the New York area.

I am writing on the recommendation of one of the artists participating in the show, Ben Edwards.

As part of the show, we would like to further our pursuit of under-exposed talent (young and older), and to solicit not-yet-established (young and older) writers to write critical essays. Of course, nothing can really be written or prepared until the show is on view, so I am writing in order to get some names of possible interested writers. Ben Edwards thought that you could supply me with the names of some writers whom I could then contact closer to the time when the show opens (beginning of February). here is the “flyer”

We Want Your Essays!

For P.S.1’s February exhibition,
Greater New York

This February, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center is organizing an exhibition of works by emerging artists from the New York Metropolitan area. This P.S.1 project is undertaken with the active participation of curators from the Museum of Modern Art.

As a component to this exhibition, P.S.1 would like to invite writers to contribute catalogue essays. The writing project will be on-going, growing as more writers submit essays. Selected essays will be featured on P.S.1’s web site at, displayed in the galleries, and then possible put onto a CD-ROM that would be inserted into a booklet, serving as the official catalogue for the exhibition.

There are a few approaches writers could take for this project:
- an essay on the exhibition and/or on the notion of group exhibitions
- a critical essay on an artist or on a particular work of art featured in the exhibition
- a creative essay as a reaction to a particular work of art (short story, poem?)

Submissions should consist of no more than 1 essay of no more than 750 words and a rŽsumŽ, and will only be accepted via e-mail. These essays will be evaluated and selected by a committee from P.S.1 and MoMA. For inclusion in the CD-ROM, essays must be received by April 7th, 2000, but submissions will be accepted through the end of the show for posting on the internet.

All interested writers should contact and send submissions to Anthony Huberman at

Mailing Address:
P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center
22-25 Jackson Ave. at 46th Ave.

I appreciate your help in what is certainly an ambitious but very exciting project. I thank you for your time and interest, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Anthony Huberman

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Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2000
Subject: This isn’t funny

Dear McSweeneys,

This probably won’t get published because it isn’t funny. I noticed that all of your letters are funny or very funny or even extremely funny (Mike Topp). Not one of your letters - and I admit that I haven’t conducted a full scale investigation here; my conclusion is based on incomplete research-not one of your letters is about something sad.

But how can I write a funny letter, when I feel as if I just lost my best friend? I just lost my best friend. Laura had lung cancer. (See how unfunny this is?) She was first diagnosed several years ago when she went to the doctor for a little cough. I’m going to the doctor for this little cough, she said and when she said it I have to admit that I thought she was being neurotic, in the way that people with our zip code (10025) can be neurotic. It was just a little cough, after all.

When she was first diagnosed, her husband who has a big job on Wall Street (he started out as a writer, but made the switch after they got married, a decision that now seems prescient, given how costly it is to be sick) when she was first diagnosed, her husband took ten days off from his big job on Wall Street to find the best lung cancer doctor in New York. Still, she died.

Right before the funeral started, her husband asked everybody to leave. He elaborated on this surprising request by informing us that he wanted to add a few things to the casket, but didn’t want anyone to see her. The undertaker, someone told me, had done a bad job. As I obediently followed others out of the room, a thought occurred to me: this funeral is a hoax! I suddenly believed that when we returned to the room, Laura would be in it. “Surprise!” she’d say. And, “Thank you for coming!” She’d be standing next to the casket, welcoming us, wearing good jewelry and that suit she’d bought from Agnes B. for a wedding she’d been too sick to attend. She’d break out champagne, she’d admire the flowers, she’d take note of who had, and who had not, arrived early and I’d promptly forgive her for never telling me that she was about to die and we’d discuss things we’d not had the chance to discuss.

I did not share this premonition with those standing around me, and when we returned to the room, I was glad to have kept my thoughts to myself. Laura was not there. In her place was the casket, looking the same as before: large and shiny and curved and closed.

You may wonder why I feel compelled to write to you about this. I myself wondered this very thing the moment I began to write about it. I had, in fact, intended to write a very funny letter about an art exhibit I once saw at a museum in an obscure city in China, which would demonstrate not only my fine sense of humor, but the fact that I am extremely well traveled.

Or I might have written about David Gergen,
Helen Ross

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Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000
From: Bruce Weir
Subject: survival tips from the audience

Dear McSweeney’s,

Once the theatre company I work for did a play about three guys who go on a polar expedition and starve. Eventually only one guy is left. His costume happened to include leather pants. After a while he dies. That’s the end of the play.

After the show the director read the little feedback forms we get from our audience. One said: “If he was that hungry, why didn’t he just boil his pants?”


Vanessa Porteous
Calgary Alberta

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From: “Boison, Jeffrey”
Subject: Dear McSweeney’s Representative.
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I just read the most recent copy of New York Magazine and it was like a leap to the 52nd degree of Freemasonry. What hath been revealed to mine eyes!

a) Your fascination with David Gergen must be a direct result of your purported obsession with skewed anagrams

the N and S do not match…..Or, perhaps it is a deeper code. Unless David Gergen’s middle name begins with an S and David Eggers begins with an N.

Already this has become way too confusing.

onto the next letter…

b) My Submission! I had feared you may have lost it – and indeed! – I believe I saw my submission underneath the desk in the photograph of you office from said New York Magazine piece. Please make haste, reach below, and retrieve my submission from the shadowed depths of the underside of your desk.

I will be much obliged.

Yours in Manhattanistic Revelry,

Jeff Boison

P.S. I’m a huge fan of Timothy McSweeney’s Canyon of Let Go. As it was obviously doomed to the same fate as my submission, howsabout Timmothy McSweeney’s Great Space Coaster? Gee….remember Gary Gnu?

- - -

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000
From: “Tuyet A. Ngoc Tran”

Dear McSweeney’s,

I enjoyed the vignette about the article submitted by someone whose work was declined by your staff. In return the writer proceeded to malign and accused your staff of being anti-Semitic!

It is amusing to me as our educational & cultural website frequently encountered peculiar responses or e-tandrums somewhat similar to your recent misunderstanding incident. Our experiences are not about the same subject of anti-Semitism but, rather we were accused of “hating our heritage” and worse when I suggested an alternative approach to ranting!(I’m the pro bono editor/content developer so contributors get to e-vent).

Nice minimalist layout site. Best wishes to you and your magazine.

Tuyet A. Tran

- - -

Dear McSweeney’s,

The following is an email I found on a hacker listgroup dedicated to the plight of Kevin Mitnick (the notorious hacker who was just released from prison). “Rotten,” the scribe of the following surreal missive, is responding to a plea from Lew DePayne, another hacker who is under house arrest and being monitored by an ankle-tracking device. He cannot leave his house, even to take out his kitty litter, and has been requesting his fellow hackers come help him take out his garbage, bring him canned goods, CDs, etc. I don’t know about the legality of publishing it. But this kid Rotten is a literary genius. I think.

[name removed by request]

Subj: [mitnick] Dear Lew,
Date: 1/25/00 4:56:10 AM Eastern Standard Time
From: rotten@[address removed]

Dear Lew,

I just wanted to write you a private note here on the Mitnick mailing list. I am saddened to hear about your troubles with the house arrest and I’m anxious to become privvy to changes made to your unjust treatment.

When I first learned of your plight, I began to cry with tears down my face. My face, being not-so-beautiful, was made even more un-beautiful by the aforementioned tears in my previous sentence about the tears on my face and crying and all.

My lord. I think of how difficult it must be to live in a cat litter infested hell hole. Not only do I realize that I should be living higher on the hog, but I also think that it must really be a lackluster experience to be in an experience similar to your lackluster experience of which I experience because I too have a cat.

And although I’m not bound by the regulations set forward by the powers that be, the powers that be do not dictate anything in my life and I’m wondering why my cat crapped on my bath-mat and why I’m sitting here typing an email when I should be scooping up the doodie with the Charmin, the same Charmin that I’m not even allowed to squeeze according to Mr. Whipple’s decree.

I always liked the spunk of Mr. Whipple.

Today, I ran out of gas as I was driving on the freeway. I was able to navigate my motorcycle off the 10 freeway and had to walk it about a block and a half to a gas station, but that doesn’t change the fact that your trash is piling up. Have you ever pushed a motorcycle along Crenshaw Bl? Most of the people on this list have never seen Crenshaw Bl, but they’ve heard of it if they’ve seen Boyz in the Hood. Little do they realize that Boyz in the Hood was based on a song rapped by Eazy-E, but written by O’Shea (ICE CUBE) Jackson who starred in the movie by the same name. Did you know that?

And when I think about your plight, I get sad again, because I get sad each time I think of the crap and the balcony and the garbage, and I start to wonder if you got the filet mignon I sent you, and if you got the free CDs I sent from BMG music service because they are a club that you can belong to that doesn’t discriminate against race, religion, sexuality or creed.

And then I think about Colt. Did you get the beans Colt promised to send you? Did you get the canned goods he promised to mail? I’m wondering because, as you know, I’m the only person who has made good on their promise to send you things in the mail like Colt did, but did you get the beans?

Ramen is cheap now, but someday, when the Okinawan farmers stop sending ramen, you won’t have any ramen to eat because you can never trust a slope, I always say. I wish I said something different, but as you know, comedians are always saying the same thing. It reminds me of how Jon Stewart will say one thing but then on another show, say another thing, but they’re always the same thing, but on different shows. That’s almost like a paradox.

In conclusion, I hope everything’s going well. If you need something other than filet mignon, let me know. I have access to a Pitney-Bowes machine and I can send you free shit, because my employer is a dunce and doesn’t know when I send certified mail. You know, a regular certified mail piece costs $2.98, assuming the mail weighs in at $0.33 and all. You know what I hate? When the Pitney-Bowes machine says “mail piece too short”. I mean, HOW does it know that may male piece is too short? It’s not my fault, you know?

Anyway, I’m sending you some Dinty Moore Beef Stew I got from Shims on Fletcher. Or is it San Fernando? I can never remember. You know the area, so if there’s anything you want or need, don’t hesitate to let me know. I’m familiar with the hand-signals made by the carta salesmen near MacArthur Park, and maybe you can sign my copy of The Fugitive Game too.

Sorry to bother you in this personal email I’ve made public. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call me at: [number deleted] Just tell the bitch to take a message.

Your friend, not mine,


- - -

Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000
From: “Sara Smith”
Subject: More contrarian songs

Dear McSweeney’s,

These contrarian song titles were compiled in about ten minutes by my friend Jon Tully, who refuses to give me a sweater of his that I love, even though he is moving to Florida and will never wear it again. That prick.


Thank you,

Sara Smith

- - -

From: Mark Barnhouse
Subject: we have copies of issue 3
Date: Mon, 24 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s Representative,

After noting on your website that your supplies of #3 are nearly depleted, I am reporting to you that here at the Tattered Cover in Denver we still have approximately 30 copies left between our two stores. I say “approximately” because not even your highly above-average readers are not highly above “five-fingered discounts.” Heaven help us when the $22.00 issue arrives. I may have to implant anti-theft devices in each copy. However, I eagerly await shipment. I am proud to say that all told we’ve sold 180 copies of McSweeney’s (Nos. 1, 2, and 3) between our two stores. It outsells all other literary journals. Who knows—some day it may even overtake Maxim!


Mark Barnhouse
Tattered Cover Book Store
Lower Downtown Denver

PS: And the world would be a much better place if it does (w/r/t the final sentence). MB —

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Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2000
From: edward silver
Subject: their departure

Dear McSweeney’s,

They left around 6:30 this morning, all in high spirits. They had packed cheese sandwiches and orangeade into a old wicker basket with fraying hinges. As they warmed up the car and shook out the lap blankets, they began humming, softly together, the tune of a song whose words they felt they should know, but which, they were certain, they had never sung out loud before. Steven guided the car from the car-port with a steady hand and they set out on the freeway, the low sun behind them casting a long shadow in their path which promised to recede.

I thought you’d like to know.

Ed Silver

It is not given to everyone to have his intellectual pursuits coincide happily with the interests of the public, so happily that it almost becomes difficult to decide to what extent he is concerned for his own good or for that of the public. Did not Archimedes sit undisturbed, contemplating his circles while Syracuse was being occupied, and was it not to the Roman soldier who murdered him that he said those beautiful words: Nolite perturbare circulos meos?

Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments

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Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000
Subject: Day Late and a Dollar Short

Dear McSweeney’s,

Even though I’m pretty behind the curve on this whole “Robert Urich celebrity sighting” thingy, I felt compelled to toss my two cents into the ring. While I’ve never encountered Mr Urich myself ( my good friend Todd B’s mom’s maiden name is Urich and I think she’s a distant relation to Mr Dan Tanna, although I’m not really sure and this isn’t the point anyway), I did have a similar encounter with another, younger, prettier celeb. Actually, my encounter was quite different and my problem was basically the opposite of those spotting Mr. Urich. It happened early in 1995. It was early spring here in MN (read winter) and I attended a screening of a film at the not terribly prestigious Mpls/St Paul International Film Festival. Suffice it to say that at the screening I was able to meet and briefly converse with Mira Sorvino (she was the star of the film I went to see, Tarantella, and was in town filming the rather odious Beautiful Girls), who was at that time the object of one of my frequent celebrity crushes. It was rather unnerving for me. I tend to have irrational anxiety attacks (in the more colloquial sense, rather than the true, clinical sense) around the beautiful and/or famous. Despite the vapidity of our brief exchange, it was a watershed moment for me. As such, I shared it with everyone I knew. Unfortunately, at that point in her career, no one I knew had any idea who she was and so I was unable to share my experience with anyone in a meaningful fashion. I’m just glad that the intervening years of therapy have paid off and I’m now able talk about this. For that, thank you Robert Urich. You are a giant among television stars in the twilight of their careers. Godspeed.

- - -

Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000
From: Mark Gabel
Subject: Alternative Subheadings for McSweeney’s

Dear McSweeney’s,

I enjoy the colorful subheadings which appear at the top of each page of McSweeney’s online version. You know, the frequently-changed phrase just underneath the words “Timothy McSweeney’s,” and just above the picture of…I guess it’s a basin of liquid on a tripod stand of some sort. Say, what IS that thing anyway?

Well, anyway, I thought that I would share some thoughts for alternate subheadings which I have had. Perhaps you will not use them, but even if you do not, perhaps you will enjoy reading them. One never knows about such things.

Timothy McSweeney’s Evildoers Beware
Timothy McSweeney’s Stripey Contagion (I like the spelling “Stripey,” don’t you?)
Timothy McSweeney’s Vehement Disavowal
Timothy McSweeney’s Pad Thai Burden (pad thai is more of a burden if you order it without shrimp, but are given shrimp anyway, and are thereby forced to pick them out)
Timothy McSweeney’s Got a Bridge to Sell You
Timothy McSweeney’s Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (or Runner’s Knee, or Tennis Elbow)
Timothy McSweeney’s Contraceptive Mishap (best not spoken of)
Timothy McSweeney’s Canary in a Coal Mine
Timothy McSweeney’s First Last and Always
Timothy McSweeney’s Not Yours
Timothy McSweeney’s Vanilla Creme-Filled Wafers of Joy (in honor of Mother’s Cookies’ Flaky Flix)

Regards, Mark Gabel

- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: A Mini-Observation
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

In Hawaii, one notes with interest, there is a big fish called ™ and a little fish called homomomonukunukuaguk.

Yours truly,

Mike Topp

- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: Death Trip
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

When I am alone, I see pigs covered with mud and a car full of devils. The guns in the closet are the first guns to come out. They are not enemies but partners. I hope it rains tomorrow. Then all doubts and suspicions will disappear.


Mike Topp

- - -

From: Molly Peterson
Subject: perhaps a clarification
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Perhaps a clarification is in order. I note that on the McSweeney’s Tour page, a date and time and place is listed as being this one:

Thursday, February 10
Palo Alto
7:30: Kepler’s

I suggest the following information might be of assistance:

1. There is a bookstore, located in Menlo Park for lo these many years now, in various locations. It is currently on the El Camino (and yes, people from this region of the country do use a duplicate and supernumerary article preceeding the proper name of that street) in Menlo Park, California, even as I write this email.

Menlo Park, the city in which I grew up, was once a sleepy hamlet inhabited solely by many senior citizens, a 31 flavors on Santa Cruz Avenue, Kepler’s, and parents like mine who were neither WASPy enough to live in nextdoor Atherton nor hip enough to live in Palo Alto. Now it is a destination location for many many palm-pilot toting, star-tac name dropping, transplanted Easterners who are driving up property values. Despite all of these states of existence, Menlo Park deserves your respect. Here’s why: I forget the story exactly, but I believe it was founded by some kind of a loony Irishman who named the place after his beloved Menlow town. There might be a song about it, though the words escape me. The point is, Kepler’s is our pride and joy everytime there’s a book event from there on CSPAN-2, our collective head swells as though a collective and allergic us had just eaten a peanut.

2. A Keppeler family lives at 3272 Bryant Street in Palo Alto. The patriarch of that family, Ron Keppeler, once served as assistant alternate coach for my AYSO soccer team. If you’re going to their house instead of the bookstore, that guy promised me a participant trophy and never delivered. Be careful, and get it all in writing. He’s a wily one, that Ron Keppeler.

Ever watchful, wary, and possessing an itchy trigger finger,

Molly Peterson

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Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000
Subject: Shern-Min Chow defies history and fate

Dear McSweeney’s,

Coverage of would-be natural disasters reminds me of a woman who was an icon to my friends and me when we were growing up. Shern-Min Chow was a correspondent for one of the Houston television news stations. Whenever there was a hurricane — which is about every spring and summer, on the Gulf Coast — they sent Shern-Min Chow to report from atop the seawall in Galveston.

She stood there in a yellow slicker, perched on ten (I think) feet of reinforced concrete, with her hair tossing about her face, hard gusts of rain and wind threatening to knock her off the wall, and shards of palm trees blowing along the deserted beach behind her.

“What is it like out there, Shern-Min?” asked the anchorman, Dave Ward, who looked like the man in the moon.

“Well, Dave, it’s really rough out here. The wind is blowing really hard” — her hat flew off — “and there’s a lot of lightning. The authorities are saying that no one should go near the water; everyone should seek shelter as soon as possible.”

We entertained fantasies of her blowing away; we were tickled by her flagrant disregard of her own advice — particularly because the seawall on which she stood is itself iconic to Texas schoolchildren. The Great Storm of 1900 nearly flattened Galveston Island. The story is traditionally presented as a fable of arrogance and failure to plan, with the elegant, proudly modern Victorians paying little heed to scientists’ warnings, throwing hurricane parties as orphans washed out to sea and their own watery deaths awaited. They built the seawall afterward to keep the waves out, though I don’t think the water has risen quite as high since.

Standing atop the seawall in the deluge, wired remotely to a news organization that possessed animated color maps of the jagged-edged storm wheeling toward the coast, she seemed insistent upon braving it out, despite the old story of the Great Storm and the symbolism of the wall. She was either tempting fate or flouting the possibility of learning from history. It is also possible that she believed it was worth risking her life and safety to tell people that it was raining as hard everywhere as it was outside their windows. We had little practical use for this news, yet we were drawn to the theater of “Shern-Min Chow, live from the seawall, Galveston.”

I don’t know why I keep writing y’all letters about Texas. As I said, I don’t much miss it.

Sincerely, Snow Tempest

- - -

Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000
From: Mary-Kim Arnold
Subject: penny

Dear McSweeney’s,

I just went to the bathroom and as I got up to wipe, a penny fell into the toilet bowl. Now, the questions this occurrence raises are many:
1. Was the penny in my underwear? If so, how did it get there and why did I not feel it before?
2. Was the penny in my ass? If so, (see above).
3. Was the penny merely planted on the edge of the toilet bowl in order to raise suspicion and self-doubt in an unsuspecting bowl sitter?
4. Is the penny some sort of sign/lesson for me? If so, what is that lesson?
5. What will others think when they go into the bathroom now – the penny still sitting on the bottom of the bowl, unmoved by the flow of the flush?

Any insights you might have would be greatly appreciated. I thank you for your time.


Mary-Kim Arnold

- - -

From: “Peter Bebergal”
Subject: let us pray
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Last night over coffee with some friends, (I was actually having some tea with a little lemon) I said very passionetly, “the little Cuban boy should go home!” Right afterwards I thought, maybe he should stay. I became ashamed that I did not know, and possibly did not care, but in that previous moment I felt compelled to say something, about which I really had not thought that much about. This has happened to me a few times in the past, and I am only just beginning to discover that even when internally apathetic or confused, the right kind of vocal inflection will convince others that you have real well thought out convictions. I do have some convictions, but these are private and are only shared with my wife while I am shaving and she is looking at catalogs in bed.

All my best,

Peter Bebergal

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: Violent Toilet Thing
Date: Thu, 27 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Some very special items in the news this week.

1) In Canada. “Hallway Huggers Told to Back Off.” On Tuesday, Donna Kormilo, principal of the Gimli Early Middle School, just north of Winnipeg, said her students have been told to stop the hugging. “We were having groups of students gather in the mornings and at recesses and proceed into these big hugging chains,” she said. Students are now to resort to “alternatives” such as a patting on the back, shaking hands, or giving high-fives.

2) In England. “Villagers Protest Topless Hair Salon.” Early this week in New Bradwell, irate villagers demanded the closure of Britain’s first topless hairdressing salon called “Mipples.” Gary Mernagh, the owner, commented, “It was just meant to be a bit of fun.”

3) In Manhattan. “Doctor Sued for Carving Initials on Woman’s Abdomen.” An obstetrician at New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center is being investigated after he allegedly carved his three-inch initials “AZ” on a woman’s abdomen after performing “a beautiful” Caesarian section.

4) In Jackson, Mississippi. “Proposed Law Would Imprison Aroused Men.” The bill, introduced by Republican state Sen. Tom King defines nudity to include “the showing of covered male genitals in a discernibly turgid state.”

5) London. “Web Site Invites Sinners to Confess Online.” The site claims, “This is between you and God and your privacy is totally respected.” Passages from the Bible, poems, and prayers are set against a backdrop of blue sky, clouds, sunflowers, and leaves. (

6) Adams, NY. “Man Found Chained to Toilet.” A woman has been charged with chaining her 73-year-old father to a toilet “for his own good.” State police on Wednesday found Wolfe alone in a small upstairs bedroom, sitting on a portable toilet, handcuffed to an adjacent bed rail, a chain around his waist that was padlocked to the toilet. “She had turned off the lights and he was in the dark,” said Investigator Mary Clark.

7) Arizona. From my girlfriend’s cousin Benny. This week I statutorily raped and impregnated a 15-year-old girl named Meghan. I don’t know if she’ll have the baby. “Whether or not she will end this unwanted pregnancy is a family decision, not her decision,” said her father, GOP presidential candidate John McCain. So I fled to Philadelphia where I’ve been arrested for shooting a man. I’m sorry but I lost it. When I came outside, this man was digging out a woman’s car. He was tossing snow at my Camero. Fuck. I’m screwed.

8) In the office kitchen. News from me. This morning I found a pamphlet next to “Dress for Success” for an activity called Rolfing. Have you heard of this? I must say that I was somewhat shocked at first. Here is a taste of the kinds of answers that William Kaye, Advanced Certified Rolfer, might provide in the pamphlet if the practice was actually as disturbing as it first struck me.

Why do people get Rolfed? What results are they looking for?
Answer: Rolfing is a lifestyle choice. What’s your problem?

I have heard that there is an emotional or psychological element to Rolfing.
Answer: Yes.

Does Rolfing hurt? I have heard rumors.
Answer: Shutup.

If I get Rolfed, will the changes last?
Answer: You make me sick.

What is advanced Rolfing?
Answer: After basic Rolfing, deeper, more subtle work becomes possible.
Alternate answer: Go to hell.

Oh, I almost forgot, I also discovered a funny website that assigns “WuNames.” You just put in your name and soon you are “Erratic Assassin” (John McCain), “Tha Lonely Donkey Kong” (Tom King), “Bilious Bad Janitah” (William Kaye), “Jive Talkin’ Choirboy” (Girlfriend’s Cousin), or “Violent Toilet Thing” (me).

Best wishes,

Bryson “Violent Toilet Thing” Newhart

PS. The WuName site is

- - -

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000
From: Annie Morelos

Dear McSweeney’s,

I think that we should soften this place up a bit. Why are you so tense? You should feel comfortable where you are. Everyone thinks you are doing great. You are going through some changes, possibly even growing, and so you have to let this take its course. For me, compromise just makes me self conscious. But that is just me, perhaps, though I really do doubt it. The tension and all the uncertainty is why we keep going. Because it makes beautiful things. It’s very precarious. But I think this is why you are ultimately successful. You need to be relaxed about the world in a way that nobody else is. It can be momentary, a second of you feeling comfortable, but it has to exist. Your time right now is holy.

All is fine here. It is a bit cold and my feet never seem to warm. Besides that and a few good books there isn’t much more to share.

Oh, but by the way: does It seems as though everyone is in love these days?? Because when I walk around and see people (when I do I tend to look at people in a way that some might say is sharper and deeper) their eyes are filled with clouds, not the kinds you might see in the sky, but the frozen kinds. These clouds are trapped in marbles.

All best,


- - -

Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000
From: Chuck Easterling
Subject: Platelets To Give

Dear McSweeney’s,

Last week while temping for a large national magazine I tried to sign up for the company-wide blood drive and was told that I could not donate because “I wasn’t a full time employee.” So while everyone else was lying back in plush blood-giving chairs or snacking on sugar cookies I was at my desk reading about lemurs in National Geographic.

Chuck Easterling

- - -

From: “McSweeney Fan”
Subject: Sean Carman’s Letter from 1/13 RE: McSweeney initiation ceremonies/Cate Warren
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Okay… I must admit that I am not as visionary as Ms. Warren, and I do hope that I am not out of line by inviting myself to write to you, but I figured that since I believed that I had read all of the “early January” letters in McSweeney’s, I almost did not return to read yours, and since I did, it is a sign and thus okay to write to you.

I too, have occasionally pondered the existence of other fans in Seattle and have hoped to run into one or two. I even tried to force some co-workers to become McSweeney fans so that we could sit around at lunch and have endless discussions about it, but they aren’t quite there yet. I have not yet received an issue of McSweeney’s to carry with me on various forms of public transportation (1. Yes, I have just recently discovered the subscription process)(and 2. I do not travel via public transportation). However, I have often thought about driving up to Elliott Bay Books and purchasing one to hold me over until the subscription kicks in. I am just waiting for an open Saturday. I have also realized that I must now get one of the fabulous (I’m assuming here) t-shirts that will distinguish me as a fan and then make me far more important than I currently am.

I often daydream and imagine myself sitting in a job interview where there will be a prime opportunity to mention McSweeney’s. The interviewer will be so impressed that he will offer me a six-figure salary, a personal assistant, a wonderful dental plan and allow me to work from home. Sadly, this has not yet come to fruition.

Since I am still waiting, at my job that I dislike immensely, the delightfully saucy image of the cookie and milk communion with other McSweeney fans tickles my senses. Unfortunately, I live in Milton, and work in Tukwila, so it is very difficult to track down any Seattle-based ceremonies and bomb shelters.

Please alert me if you stumble across any midnight meetings of the underground McSweeney’s.



- - -

From: “Yoz Grahame”
Subject: There is a television in the bathroom.
Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Sorry to burden you all with this, but I will not rest until I have told everyone.

I am in Los Angeles, in a room on the eighth floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, and there is a television in the bathroom.

No, really. A little white Trinitron. I can’t find the remote control for it.

There is also, of course, a massive television in the main room, along with a video recorder, a minibar, a nice selection of seemingly-free snacks and a nice stereo that lights up when I go near it.

What I’m using now is the free Ethernet connection. 10mbits of high-speed Internet access to every room. (They gave me a spare 3Com “pigtail” for my laptop ‘cos I lost mine in transit. I didn’t know anybody called it a pigtail, but from now on I will always call it that. They are right about everything here.)

There is also a telephone with two lines and voicemail.

It took me ten minutes to find the light switch.

I wasted half an hour watching “The Dukes Of Hazzard”. (It’s always a revelation watching shows you remember from your childhood that seemed, at the time, to be aimed at adults but were quite obviously for children, or adults who think like children. I like the way that each plot point is repeatedly explained to you over and over again, often with the amazingly imbecilic characters as the excuse. Hazzard County is obviously a place where social Darwinism does not apply. Or maybe that’s why it’s so barren and has only five cars in it.) I watched it in the main room, not in the bathroom. (That would have been silly.)

I had a shower. It was very nice. I like the way that hotels give you lots of little bottles of free things to pour over yourself. By the time I left the bathroom I had used most of them. (I wanted to make a good impression in this very stylish, ostentatious and neat hotel. I think people could tell.)

There is lots of marble everywhere. Lots of green and gold and pinky-beige. It reminds me of the sorts of places that my paternal grandparents like to live in.

It was a rather hectic day, especially since I didn’t sleep much last night, and two minutes before the SuperShuttle arrived the landlady called, who I’d never spoken to before, the reason being that I sublet the flat from Tom, who has never really talked much about the landlady, whose voice I didn’t recognise until she told me she was the landlady, by which time I had already told her that Tom had moved out and then she told me that his subletting was in breach of his contract. So I may be homeless next week. But probably not. Pouneh says not to worry, it will get sorted. I trust her. And there are other places to live in San Francisco anyway. Probably. The flight I was meant to be on was cancelled, but because the SuperShuttle was fast I managed to switch to an earlier one, which was held up for ten minutes while waiting for the Duchess Of York and her six minders and personal assistant to board. Oh, and I lost my 3Com pigtail somewhere in transit, but I already said that.

It’s amazing how quickly your troubles disappear when you go to a nice hotel and all the staff are amazingly nice and helpful and the list of available services takes up a rather thick folder on the marble desk and there’s a heated pool on the fourth floor and a television in the bathroom. It’s one of those hotels of the sort which has those advertisements in The Economist about how one of their guests once lost their poodle and the concierges did not rest until they had bought the guest a replacement poodle, which they managed in half an hour. But I asked the porter who showed me to my room about a replacement pigtail for me to take home, and he told me where CompUSA was. Oh well.

It is the company’s money, and I am trying to be relatively thrifty. However, I just bought a bottle of Evian from the bar and it cost six dollars. I think I know why this place is so nice.

I saw my friend Tina tonight. She is very fab. We wandered around Westwood and bought cheap CDs and played Ms Pac Man. Tina is remarkably good at it. She drives a big car truck thing, of which there are many here. LA is very spread out, the roads are very wide, but the cars are wider. The cars keep growing. They are already large enough to be re-employed as small refugee camps. Parking is obviously not a problem in LA, unless you lose your car under another one.

I have just found the complimentary bottle of spring water on the little table next to the armchair. This has taught me two valuable lessons: Firstly, that I am a reckless fool who should pay more attention to his surroundings before spending other people’s money. Secondly, the hotel staff are able to presciently gauge my needs to a fatefully cruel degree.

I have a meeting with my boss tomorrow. It is why I am here. The meeting is at 8 AM. I think my boss is trying to test me. He knows that my body clock lives five hours west of my physical location, wherever it happens to be. But I shall prove that I can rise to such a challenge, even if I fall face-first into the poached eggs halfway through.

I must finish outlining my work schedule and another document or nine and then go to bed. I must not log onto ICQ or play Starcraft or use Napster or watch the television in the bathroom.

I repeat: there is a television in the bathroom.

Thank you for your time.

Yoram (Yoz) Grahame

- - -

Date: 24 Jan 2000
From: Edward Kafka Gelbrecht
Subject: Mr. Thomas Collins

Dear McSweeney’s,

While Thomas Collins should feel very badly about stealing things from friends and family, he should feel good about letting truth into his life. And, by sharing, into mine. May there always be honor among thieves.

Your friend,

- - -

Dear Sirs,

It was with great pleasure and genuine suspicion that I read Kevin “Lee” Guilfoile’s [sic] knee-jerk reaction to my reviews of my daydreams. I have followed Mr Guilfoyle’s career for years and he is a trusted colleague and close personal friend…of Himmler’s. I would like now, if I may, to clear up some of the subtler points which confused Mr Guilfoyle.

For one thing my demagoguery is not fictive. It is a regular part of my conversational routine to refer to opponents as “fascists” and, occasion warranting, “cannibal hicks.”

As I read Mr Guilfoyle’s letter I was not imagining myself in some “Oval Office” (whatever that is! Which one of us lives in Make Believe?). I was actually imagining myself pouring quicklime into a mass-grave of freshly executed kulaks while singing hits from “Flashdance.”

Mr Guilfoyle then dares attack my commitment to education. I can’t really argue with this. That whole bit as corridor-master is kind of pervy. And he doesn’t even know about the cattle prod.

As for my military record, had Mr Guilfoyle and his corporate overlords examined it carefully (assuming they can read) they would know that I am, in fact, dead. Tricky thing, English, with all those little symbols and spaces! What’s a fascist to make of it all!

Finally I would just like to say to Mr Guilfoyle, “Stuff it, cannibal hick.”

Thank you for the opportunity to clear the air of this pretend unpleasantness.



- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: Tapestry
Date: Sun, 23 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Sometimes I think that my life is like a tapestry, being woven by God and history on an enchanted loom. And then I think, “Hey, how much is this thing going to cost?”


Mike Topp

- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: Big Lies from Grassy
Date: Sun, 23 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Grassy told me once that when he was a child in the Pacific Northwest, a fruit tree grew from the head of a deer shot with fruit pits.

Yours truly,

Mike Topp

- - -

Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2000
From: Gabe Hudson
Subject: Letter to McSweeney’s, Critiques

Dear McSweeney’s,

Last week when you allowed me to post my story, tentatively titled, “Step on the Gum,” in your letters section and ask for general critiques from McSweeney’s readers, but more specifically, ask for any suggestions as to what I should title the story, I had no idea that I would get so much feedback. The response has been overwhelming! So far I’ve received close to sixty letters from readers from all over the country. If anyone is looking for a way to “fine tune” a piece, I highly recommend it. And, at your request, I’ve forwarded some of these letters on to you, so that you can have “a first-hand account of my experience” (please paste forwarded letters below).

>Dear Gabe Hudson,

>Where did you come from? Who told you that what you are doing is
>okay? Fucking >A. McSweeney’s is great, but you bite. Get a life and
>stop hogging space that >could be filled up with the work of a real
>writer. What do you think this is, >some kind of workshop for
>neophytes? Why don’t you consider titling your piece, >"I Suck." And
>one more thing, do us all a favor and keep your dumb-ass
>memories >to yourself.

>Jacob Swenson
>Iowa City IA

>Dear Gabe,

>I really liked your story from last week. I especially liked it when
>you gave >the name of the vet clinic where readers could find you if
>your dog Ronald gets >run over by a car. I also think that basset
>hounds are underrated!! That whole >paragraph was excellent. And you
>were right, people with pets are definitely >better than people
>without pets. Pet owners unite! I have a cat named Smoky >Joe.
>That’s short for Smoky Joe the Best Kitty In the World. She’s only
>five >inches tall and she likes to swim around in the sink while I
>do the dishes. >She’s smart, and can do lots of tricks, like
>standing up and walking on her >hind legs, so now I’m trying to
>teach her how to play capture-the-flag.

>The other part of your story I liked was when that artist Sally gets
>so hungry >she eats her own teeth. But one thing I wasn’t sure
>about, did she ever finish >her novel? I couldn’t tell, because when
>she thinks, “I am a rocket ship,” I >didn’t know what that meant.
>Also, your use of adjectives is superb. I had >never thought of a
>stapler as being gelatinous before, but it is, when you >really
>think about it. I did however wonder if that part where Peter jumps
>off >the diving board and lands inside Phil’s daydream might be a
>little too much. I >don’t know though, maybe not, since we do get to
>see that god is driving the >bus when the bus goes “number 2.”

>Anyway, the title I thought up for your story was, “You Can’t Judge
>a Cover By >the Book.” That seemed to make sense to me since your
>story had a book in it >that could actually read humans.

>Looking forward to hearing from you, and keep up the great work.


>Alice Karowitz
>Newton MA

>Dear Gabe Hudson,

>It’s pretty clear to anyone with half a brain that you don’t exist.
>You are >obviously somebody else, or many somebody elses, but there
>is definitely no >such person as Gabriel Hudson living in America,
>that much I can promise you. >The first thing that tipped me off was
>your writing style, it’s totally >inconsistent. One second it’s
>super controlled and the next second it’s all >over the place. Then,
>after I read your story, I started getting really >suspicious, and I
>ran a citizen check on you. Guess what came up? You know damn >right
>what. Nothing. Nada. Surely you knew that in today’s society people
>have >access to this kind of information. How long did you think you
>could carry on >with this charade before you got caught? I have to
>give it to you though, it >is/was funny.

>Your secret is safe with me,

>Jeff Fulsom


>This is your mother. Why haven’t you called? I thought you said you
>were going >to call and apologize to your father for what you did.
>Now when anybody >mentions your name he gets this tight look on his
>face and starts gagging. Last >week at the Thompsons he had to
>excuse himself from the table. He only wants >what’s best for you.
>Will you please stop sending that magazine letters? Will >you please
>give up this idea of being a writer? How can you be
>so >disrespectful? He is your father. Doesn’t that count for >something?

>I still love you sweetie.



>Dear Gabe Hudson,

>Do you really live in an igloo or did you make that up? Is that your
>real >address at least, because if it is, I will be coming through
>Providence some >time in early February, and I thought maybe we
>could get some coffee. Don’t >worry, I’m not gay. At least not any
>more. Are you gay though? You sounded like >you could be. Let me
>know about that coffee.


>Brian Hoffer
>New Haven CT

So there you have it. If any more of particular interest show up I’ll definitely forward them on to you. In the meantime, take care.


Gabe Hudson
Providence RI

- - -

Date: Sat, 22 Jan 2000
From: Jesse Lichtenstein
Subject: getting to the bottom

Dear McSweeney’s,

I have just been informed that I will be living with a loquacious Irishman for several weeks. We’ll see about that.

I once lived with an Irishman and his girlfriend. This Irishman was not loquacious, but his girlfriend at first blush seemed to be. There was, of course, a catch. You see, she was an Andalusianwoman, which is a type of Spanishwoman, and as anyone who has met Andalusianpeople may know, they pronounce 1/2 of each word—tops. And so here she was rapidly speaking (or at least referring to) twice as many words as her unloquacious Irishman, and yet I did not feel comfortable calling her ‘loquacious.’ I still do not, to this day.

Does loquacity inhere in a rate of total verbiage, or is it more accurately linked to a rate of words referred to, in whole or in part? Or is it better viewed as a measure of time expended in the act of speaking over a given span of time (which might be of benefit/detriment to extremely slow speakers)? There are just too many questions.

How has my new companion qualified for his distinction? Some careful observation is certainly in order. A New Jerseyanman also lives here, and I’m told a San Diegoanwoman might visit. Together we may get to the bottom of this.

Jesse Lichtenstein

- - -

From: “Newhart, Bryson”
Subject: Thoughts of summer
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Most lipstick contains fish scales and the blesbok, a South African antelope, is almost the same color as grape juice. Also, last night on the subway platform wearing very thick thermal gloves that made it enormously difficult to turn the fine pages of McSweeney’s number 2, choosing my own adventure a la Todd Pruzan while trying to hold my place throughout the journal at each tyne in the many forked story, I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if it wasn’t winter? If it was summer instead? Then I wouldn’t have to wear these stupid thermal gloves anymore. Then I could just go with a nice thin pair of silk ones. Then I would only have this page-turning problem in the rare event that extreme heat forced me to wear my air-conditioned astronaut suit.

The point is, when it’s winter, sometimes summer seems very nice indeed. Here are some thoughts on that in the form of an e-mail dialogue.

Sarah M. Balcomb:

How’s it going? It is hot out, but at least it’s dry. I was just trying to sit outside but the marble wall I was sitting on was scorching. Then, in the shade, my boots stuck out and my feet started to fry.

I had something to tell you this morning but I’ve forgotten what it was. My brain is rather pulpous today. Pulpous is also my word of the day, not that I usually have words allocated to days, but I should start doing that, allocating, because that would be good for keeping the mind from getting overly pulpous or torpid, my other word of the day.

Incidentally, my spell check for e-mail does not know the word pulpous. I usually find that I have a larger lexicon than my spell check, that dumbass. Not that it knows the word dumbass.


I too have found that it is difficult to offend people, or computers pretending to be people, with words that they don’t know. I have found that this is especially true when the words don’t really exist.

It was going but now it has stopped. It just went to lunch and now it is back. Does this makes sense? Me as the “it?” Probably not. But what it did was it sat outside for a while with the corporate plaza smoking crowd, many of whom are quite tan. I don’t think that they get that tan just from just sitting outside for lunch or cigarettes.

Anyway, the scene was pretty torpid, but not very pulpous, except for the pulpy material in the throat of the homeless man who was grumbling up an incomprehensible storm that got everyone’s attention between puffs of smoke as security escorted him to the stairs that led out of the complex. He may or may not have uttered the word dumbass, but mostly it sounded like he was just loudly clearing his throat.

(Later) SMB:

I can’t believe I’m still here. It’s so damn hot my ass is sticking to my desk chair. And there’s this noise outside which just won’t stop. It’s emanating from a garbage truck. It seems as if the truck is just parked on the street compacting its contents over and over again. I think it must be doing this just to drive me crazy. I also think it’s about to succeed.


That truck is a giant sloppy eater smacking his lips in your face. Keep it together …


Now my face is dripping with sweat. It feels like the saliva of that sloppy guy. And I have to type a letter for my annoying boss. I think I’ve entered the 7th circle of hell. Soon I’ll be running for the elevator, screaming while I wait the 15 minutes it takes to arrive, banging on the elevator door shouting “Get me out of here!” I’ll have passed out before it has a chance to.


15 minutes can be surprisingly long. By the time the elevator gets there, you’ll be so exhausted from the effort of all that banging that you’ll be leaning lifelessly against the dented aluminum, bloody knuckles dangling at your side. Everyone else will be cool and collected in a loose circle around you, laughing and giggling, occasionally pointing their fingers, for emphasis. Then, ding. The door will open and you’ll collapse into the arms of a drenched, blubbery delivery man munching on a leaky stromboli, orange grease dripping like a miniature waterfall down his hairy, shirtless gut, collecting in his dirty navel, silently forming into a puddle at his feet. The doors will slam shut and the echo of laughter and applause will rattle in your ears as you plummet to the 6th circle.


Mmmm… Stromboli. I like stromboli.

PS. Tyne is the Brit. spelling of tine (for Sam Meyer, whose letter appears somewhere below).

PS2. SMB did not really say that part about the stromboli. I made that up. I do not have the time to explain why. I might as well blame it on the Simpsons.

PS3. Matt Fritchman was right about the ass deluge: here are three instances of “dumbass,” one “my ass is sticking,” and a p"ass"ed out.

PS4. Today I had Mongolian barbecue for lunch. It was steaming hot. It left a greasy film on my glasses and made them smell like garlic.


Bryce Newhart

- - -

From: “Robert Beier”
Subject: From your office correspondent
Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

If one executes enough pointlessly repetitive tasks does one become pointless? Does a sentence become endlessly pointless if it is repetitive? If one executes a sentence is that murder?

I just passed a crazy Haitian man who is supposed to be able to fix computer problems but actually runs around making sounds to himself, or does he make sounds to the computers? Has this man learned to speak to computers? Have the computers heard us all sigh and moan so much that they have learned our office language? It is a language of sputters and frustration and sadness. Computers, if they could observe and learn from us, would think we were awfully dull people. Pale and bored and lonely, doing repetitive things that give us carpal tunnel syndrome, something that has never existed. A new disease to correspond to a new type of slavery. It used to be that slaves became lame or had too many lash strokes on their backs or simply died of exhaustion. Now they just loose their eyesight, get carpal tunnel syndrome and die of exhaustion. Of course, the late night office tryst would redeem us considerably in their eyes. We should have many more of those.

Back to the brilliant Haitian man who has learned to talk to computers. I passed him and he told me “You don’t need to go to the beach. You can stay right here!” He then grunted, presumably at his computer, for affirmation of his wit. I just stared at him and tried to understand the relevance of what he said. I think the computer clicked in chuckle. Speaking of mysteries, I was thinking about destiny. Now, life is a random thing. There is nothing we can do about it. If a tornado of fire sweeps through Manhattan, such is life. I can’t do anything about that. I can do something about how I respond to it. This is how we shape our destiny. We can’t fashion our destinies ex nihilo. A sculpture isn’t made out of thin air. It begins as a block of marble, hewn down and smoothed with deliberate strokes. Destiny is determined by our willed response to stimulus.


Bob Beier

- - -

Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2000
Subject: The Great McSweeney’s Tour Disappointment

Dear McSweeney’s,

I notice no stop in Washington, D.C. This despite the fact that every human being who has ever written a check shows up at the Olsson’s Books & Records across the street to peddle whatever pablum has mostly recently been ghostwritten under their name and to ruin my lunch hour. (Because it’s not such a big store, see, so I can’t browse comfortably when it is swollen with the mass of humanity that has come to hear Bill Moyers discuss cat hygiene.) Are you hiding from me, is that it? Do you think I’m angry becasue you edited the best part out of my recent letter? The joke by which that letter crossed the line from the chuckle-worthy to Theatre of the Absurd? (Why did you, by the way? Are you afraid your audience doesn’t know who Antonin Scalia is? I think you give us too little credit.) OK, I am a bit angry, but it is very unlikely I would resort to physical violence. I would have to be either drunk or, possibly, sober. But I’m sure that would all pass by the time you got here. I hope that you will reconsider.

Alex Pascover

- - -

From: “Ruland, Jim”
Subject: High off the glass
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000

Dear Jeff,

With the NFL drawing to a close, I worry that the lure of McSweeney’s for the sports enthusiast will wane. Please don’t let this happen. I like to think of McSweeney’s as a sort of saloon were one can say: “The Giants/Pope/Waiting Period for Handguns Suck(s)” and the other patrons will nod their heads knowingly. Sure, the conversation gets a little lofty, but up in the corner over the bowling trophies and the jackalope sits the flickering television from the Ford adminstration where The Game is always on. You are that green t.v. Jeff.

So when the NFL season expires, I suggest you turn your attention to basketball. Granted, basketball, unlike football, is a poor substitute for war, but basketball remains exceptionally compelling. It’s like theater. I like to think of it as opera with a shot clock. And the statistics, Jeff! immensely gratifying. Why you can know absolutely everything! Do you realize how comforting that is?

I suspect I’m singing to the choir, preaching to the pastor, getting up on a soapbox double wrapped in aluminum foil. I realize there are too many games a week to predict (50 on average) but surely there’s enough material to warrant a weekly look at the highs and lows of the national basketball association. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Fantastic Explanations for NBA Nicknames
  • 13 Ways of Looking at a Backboard
  • Vampires in our Midst: Basketball Players Bearing an Uncanny Resemblance to Nosferatu
  • Michael Jordan: Portrait of a Mob-Controlled Athlete
  • Sam Cassel is an Alien: Greyboys, Amphibians and Other Weird Looking Dudes of the NBA
  • Alonzo Mourning Must Die
  • Airball: How John Starks Conspired with Texas Oilmen to Rob the Knicks of an NBA Championship
  • Rasta Men Don’t Pass
  • Dazzle! A Whimsical Look at Gold Teeth

You get the idea. I eagerly await the first installment.

Your obedient servant,
Coach Ruland

P.S. What’s wrong with the Knicks? They seem sluggish, out of sorts, even disinterested. Of course, I could be projected my own ennui onto the players, Ms. Gobi says I do that sometimes, but I don’t know. The NBA has managed to re-invent itself with increased scoring, wide open offenses and a faster pace. You could even say the NBA is mirroring the economy of the late 90’s. If that’s the case, then the Knicks are still playing depression era ball and I’m tired of standing in the bread line.

Jim Ruland

- - -

Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000
From: Bruce Van
Subject: Letters: misspellings = laffs

Dear McSweeneys,

1. Regarding John Warner’s letter of Jan. 10, I agree that it is important that we not diminish the cartooning genius of Peanuts’ creator. An important first step would be to spell his name correctly.

2. Bob Beier’s letter makes a funny point about “101 alternatives to doing drugs.” Indeed: How is a heroine addict going to stop using Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2, or the women of Thelma & Louise, or that black tar of heroine, Xena the Warrior Princess, when caring for plants is his only alternative? Perhaps if someone offered him some smack, then maybe …

Your friendly copy monitor,

B. V.

- - -

Date: 20 Jan 00
From: “Cap’n Wacky”
Subject: Speak tighter

Dear McSweeney’s,

When people call the office, the often say something like, “Is Susan in, by chance?” How I answer: “Yes” or “Let me find out for you.” How I would like to answer: “No, Susan is here on purpose. This is her place of employment, and so she makes it a point to be here every workday during office hours. Chance plays no role in it.” Let’s clean it up, people.

hesitating and lost,

Brodie H. Brockie

- - -

From: “Mike Topp”
Subject: Untitled
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I got a great job last Friday but the pay is too low and the work I do is humiliating.


Mike Topp

- - -

Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000
From: “mark walters”
Subject: Fonts

Dear McSweeney’s,

The other night a friend and I sat in her kitchen, drinking real hot chocolate. When I use the word “real” I mean to say that the hot chocolate that we were drinking in her kitchen was, in fact, authentic homemade hot chocolate and was not the prepackaged powdered kind. It was made in a saucepan. Water, milk, sugar, a dash of salt, and a stolen chocolate bar. This chocolate bar was stolen from her brother. He recieved this chocolate bar for Christmas. In his stocking. It had been sitting in her refrigerator for quite some time. He will never miss it.


It was delicious.

In any case, we were enjoying each other’s company, sipping on our hot chocolate (topped with both whipped cream and a marshmellow. Delightfully sinful!) when the subject of fonts came up, and specifically, the fonts used in your fine magazine and website. We considered the Garamond short story in issue three. We asked ourselves: what is McSweeney’s favorite font?

We anxiously await your answer.

Mark P. Walters
Kirsten A. Hirsch

- - -

From: “Dan Kennedy”
Subject: re: Ms. Winona Ryder’s flying
Date: Thu, 20 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

This note is regarding the Sat, 15 Jan 2000 missive from Jesse Lichtenstein entitled, “upgrades”.

Lichtenstein wants to know how movie stars generally fly. Specifically whether they fly commerical, and if so where they sit. Well, as with most of the general public, Jesse hasn’t caught on to how movie stars and TV personalitites fly without the convenient fortune of a studio or network corporate jet being available. Look at the staff on the flight, Mr. Lichtenstein. Nope, not the flight attendants or ticket agents at the gate (Duh. They wouldn’t even be going on the flight.)

I’m talking about the people in the cockpit. The cockpit door is the REAL barrier between the classes on a commercial flight. Don’t waste time gawking at the pilot, as very few stars (I know, Mr. Travolta. We all know. Now shut up.) actually have their jet credentials and/or intrument ratings. The “talent” is usually outfitted to look like one of those people sitting at the map table behind the pilot and to the rear of the co-pilot. Ask those flight staffers to remove their cap for a moment and give you a good square look in the eye. You’re likely to find some of the silver screen’s finest. Oh, they’ll deny it! They’ll smile politely and keep navigating and talking on the radio…of course they will…if they didn’t, there would be panic.

Dan Kennedy

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From: “Dan Kennedy”
Subject: reagrding my oral surgery
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

Before all of your readers start freaking out, let me make a few things clear about the oral surgery I had yesterday.

1) Yes, what everybody has heard about the root canal I had done by Dr. Robert Huang in Magalia California in 1989 is true. It had in fact developed some kind of infection recently, requiring a specialist in NYC to perform an apedectomy on tooth #8 on Monday 1-17-00. Is it a hygienal thing? NO!! IT IS NORMAL IN A SMALL PERCENTAGE OF ROOT CANALS AFTER THE TEN YEAR MARK!!

2) Yes, the portable CD player I was seen carrying into the appointment at around 2:00 PM was worn during the procedure. Basically, since I was to be awake for the procedure I planned on listening to very aggressive music to help set a tone for the cutting and somehow reduce the pain/anguish of what I was going through. I DID NOT know that my girlfriend had used the same portable cd player hours earlier to listen to The Cockteau Twins. When I pressed play, I was expecting to hear The Rollins Band. The surprise was the last thing I needed and provided a frustrating contrast to the cutting and scraping sounds. IT WAS NOT MY INTENTION TO LISTEN TO THE COCKTEAU TWINS!! I DON’T LIKE THE COCKTEAU TWINS!! (I really don’t know how much clearer I can make this to all of you, and I refuse to comment on it any further if you tease or antagonize me.)

3) My face is currently swollen. It’s normal, so I would appreciate you and your readers not making jokes about my so called “Fat lips” or making comparisons to a squirrels tendency to “Store”, “Gather”, and “Horde” food in its cheeks. Real funny, dicks! Fuck you! You probably have SEX with squirrels! (Just in case anybody ends up making that joke.)

4) Do I rent adult films? Okay, I doubt anyone will ask that one…but I’m going to address this once and for all. Yes. Yes, I do. And I rent the real dirty ones and it’s totally natural and I refuse to feel like a “Pervert” becasue I enjoy my sexuality. That’s my own business!! Get a goddamn life and quit making mine such a hassle, you fucking jerks! (Just in case anybody bothers me about that.)

At least I take care of my teeth-

Dan Kennedy

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Dear McSweeney’s,

This is what I did yesterday when I wasn’t sleeping:

I woke up and my back was really sore. I slept weird and kept thinking my clock radio could spray Pam on pans and serve maple syrup and do other things that clock radios can’t do. I was half-asleep and I worried that the snooze button wouldn’t work with all the new features. I was right, it didn’t work and I was lucky to wake up on time.

When I went downstairs my brother and some other guys his age were there eating bagels. My brother’s grade eleven workout friends tried to explain what muscle I had pulled. They knew the correct terminology. I thought they might be able to become doctors, if it wasn’t for all the drugs and alcohol.

After a while, knowing what muscle I had hurt made it hurt less, and by noon everything was good.

I went to the mall to exchange a vest I bought for my sister for Christmas. She really liked it but my mom insisted it was too small for her and told me to get her another one. I had put off going to the store and I hoped they would still do the exchange. When I explained the situation to the cash women she did the exchange right away. She even started doing it before I finished telling her what happened.

I wandered around the mall a bit more and I walked past Athlete’s World. I stopped to look at some nice looking runners in the window. I little boy walked past the store with his mom and stopped. He said ‘Wow, this is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen!’ I looked in the store again, he was right; there was some pretty nice stuff for sale in there.

I decided I wanted the shoes and I bought them. They were running shoes, and I do run, but only in specially sanctioned running areas. Otherwise I might hurt my ankles, which I twist quite often.

I went to the bulk food aisle and bought some raisins and peanuts. I brought them to the cashier and he said ‘Hmmm, good old raisins and peanuts! GORP!’ He was pretty happy for me. I guess he liked raisins and peanuts too.

I got on the bus and there was a young couple in front of me, they were kissing. Then the guy backed off of the women and said real loud. ‘The last thing I need is a hickey!’ They didn’t kiss anymore while I was on the bus.

I walked up to the back door of my apartment building and there was a midget. He was dressed in a gray unitard and an old bell hop jacket. He was wearing safety glasses. He scaled the side of my buildings dumpster and dropped in. He rooted around for a second but then came out and looked miffed. I figure we must have just had our dumpster emptied.

In the elevator to my floor there was a guy looking in a magazine. He flipped a page and said out loud ‘another prosthesis!?’ He was shocked. I don’t know what magazine he was reading. I suppose it didn’t matter.

When I got home I lay on my bed and then I fell asleep. I woke up at one a.m., and since I had to work the next morning, I went back to sleep even though I wasn’t tired.

I remembered all these things when I was in the washroom this morning.

Thanks for listening,

Ryan Glover

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From: “Colleen Werthmann”
Date: Wed, 19 Jan 2000
Subject: I Got the Hook-Up

Dear McSweeneys,

Re.: Jesse Lichtenstein

Stars usually fly first class, but some of the richest and most influential stars have their own planes (Harrison Ford, Jack Nicholson, etc.) though occasionally they do charter. For example, a minor star, like Catherine Zeta-Jones, or a character actor (Michael Imperioli) would fly first class on a commercial airline, for work. However, for auditions, actors are only required (by union laws, and yes, they do apply even to famous or semi-people w/r/t bare minimum treatment) to be flown economy-class.

My guesses, then:

Barbra Streisand — Own plane Philip Seymour Hoffman — First-class Winona Ryder — Gets a ride in somebody else’s chartered plane, with Matt Damon in tow Eddie Murphy — Own plane Paul Newman — Own plane Ashley Judd — First-class (not very resourceful) Angelina Jolie — Gets a ride; may have her own plane someday Sean Penn — Rides on horseback; practices squinting in hand mirror along the way Woody Allen — Gets a ride; Soon-Yi flies coach Linda Fiorentino — First class Tom Cruise — Own plane Michael Imperioli — First-class

Hope this helps. If you really want to interact with stars, just move to LA and get a job at their managers’ offices, or their publicists’. They probably won’t want to marry you, but they WILL be grateful for your dog-walking skills.


Colleen Werthmann

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From: “Robert Beier”
Subject: From your office correspondent
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

It was 4 degrees this morning. I woke up in my freezing apartment and decided that the insulation job I’d done the night before, implementing old socks and clear tape to my windows, wasn’t going to cut it. At least the office will be warm. That was my mantra as I was walking to work. Again, and again the phrase blustered across my mind. I’ll be warm in the office.

I hate the office. I hate the way it strips me of my talents and personality. “Oh good morning, sir! Please leave your talent and personality at the door. You won’t be needing them today. We don’t like talent and personality. It makes us feel funny. It make us feel like we have holes in our chests. Big gaping ones.”

But it will be warm, I thought, and today that is enough. Today I won’t hate the office. I got to my desk and took off my coat, all happy that I was going to be warm. I guess this happiness blinded me from the fact that it was really cold. Before I sat down, I looked around at the people and noticed that everyone had their coats on and some were wearing scarves and hats. They must be cold, I thought. Then it struck me. Goosebumps. Freezing. Someone told me that the heating system was “on the fritz”.

I’m sitting here in my coat and hat wishing I were warm and not liking the office as much as I thought I would this morning. It’s interesting though. Everyone bundled up and trying not to freeze to death seems more honest. It reminds me why most of us are here. To survive. Somehow we have to survive and this is the means we have found at the moment to keep us fed, housed, clothed and most of all drunk on sake with a belly full of sushi on the weekend.


Bob Beier

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From: “Daniel Casey”
Subject: Further response to Amie Barrodale
Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I’m truly sorry to hear from Ms. Barrodale that her “gramma,” as well as her mother, have felt the need to act like vicious harridans when their offspring try to make friends.

As for proof that I’m not Sam Stark, I can only offer that I’ve only known two Sams in my life. The first one made fun of my lunchbox when we were in nursery school, but I had the last laugh when he ended up being ugly ten years later. The second Sam was an okay guy, but managed to look dirty even when clean. He dropped out of high school and worked in the stockroom at a nearby Victoria’s Secret. I always wondered what the women of my neighborhood would think if they knew that this filthy-looking skateboarder was responsible for the well-folded underwear they bought and wore.

Hopefully Ms. Barrodale will consider this sufficient. I challenge her to provide proof (whatever that may entail) that she herself is not Sam Stark.

Sam Stark can’t eat kimchi. Can’t stand the stuff. But I can. I can eat a lot of it. Let’s see if “‘Barrodale Amie’ or what have you” can do that. Let’s.


Daniel Casey

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Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000
From: Elizabeth Cox
Subject: I am mad at me

Dear McSweeney’s,

There are two reasons I am mad at me. The first: I keep jumping out of bed at 2am and running into the kitchen naked with my heart beating frantically because I think my cat is about to kill a mouse. He never is. What I would do if he were, I have not yet worked out. This is destroying the sleep patterns of my entire household. The second: every time my parents call me and start discussing my uncle’s prostate cancer they say “prostrate”. In their thick Northern Minnesotan accents. “Praaahstrrrayt.” I am mad to correct them but so far have refrained; instead I smirk quietly 1,000 miles away. What a smuggy little snot I am.

Please forgive me,

Libby Cox

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Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000
From: Amie Barrodale
Subject: Re: your mail

Dear McSweeney’s,

I think my mom’s been screwing around on my account again. I figured it out when I read her letters, published by you under my name on your website. I changed my password now.


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Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000
Subject: Re: A Response From Across the Aisle
From: “kevin guilfoile”

Dear McSweeney’s,

I would like to express my very real outrage at the reforms proposed by the imaginary administration of T.G. Gibbon (“Reviews of My Daydreams,” Timothy McSweeney’s Stunned Silence, 1/11/00). Nationalized industry? Does the trolley which passes through Mr. Gibbon’s Neighborhood of Make Believe not bring word that, even in China, Adam Smith’s invisible hand has dismissed the fatuous ghost of Marx, and now pushes the world’s economies irrevocably and gloriously toward the free market?

By his own admission, President Gibbon is a dreamer (more in the Mr. Limpet mold than the Bill Bradley one, I suppose). But worse than that is his fictive demagoguery, with which he blithely paints any daydream antithetical to his own as “fascist.” I would guess that, as he reads this letter, he is right now picturing himself behind his desk in the Oval Office, feeding the pool camera those scathing “bon mots” for which he is famous, speciously responding to my reasoned arguments with ad hominem attacks.

I’ll concede that Mr. Gibbon’s fantasy military record is admirable, even heroic, but regarding his fitness to be this country’s hypothetical Commander-In-Chief, I would ask that he fully disclose the details of another of his alleged imaginings, one in which he resides in a dormitory full of adoring adolescents, exposing them to a lifestyle he euphemistically refers to as “free-thinking.” He might win a chimerical California primary with such scandalous behavior on his mind, but he won’t receive a single pretend vote in Iowa, I assure you.

Kevin Guilfoile
Chicago, IL

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From: “Sam Meyer”
Subject: No David Gergen in this one either.
Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000

Dear McSweeney’s,

I think “Sputum” would be a really really terrible name for a perfume.

It might work OK for a hard-rock band, though.

What do you think?


Sam Meyer
America’s Lemony-Fresh Dishwashing Alternative

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Date: Tue, 18 Jan 2000
Subject: Keepin’ in touch

Dear McSweeney’s,

Hey, I was walking on Pennsylvania Avenue a few weeks ago in front of the National Theatre right when the actors were leaving from that night’s show of “Chicago.” Like Mr. Purdy and Ms. Fillmore, I also got an eyeful of Robert Urich and have since failed to tell anyone. Weird, huh? When I sat next to Susan Dey at dinner several years ago, I told everyone I knew about it the very next morning, and have also managed to successfully drop Carl Sagan’s name (who I knew briefly near the end of his life) into several conversations with friends and acquaintances (and now a literary magazine’s letter column). I guess Robert Urich (and Gene Wilder, too) is in that strange celebrity limbo; he is popular enough that one is excited to see him, but not so popular that one would interrupt one’s daily life to discuss the event.

Alex Pascover

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Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2000
From: “Kate Powers”
Subject: Agggh, sorry, etc.

Dear McSweeney’s,

I am in the best of health and not in the least stricken with the plague. In fact, if I had to explain my silence I would have to blame one thing: good time management skills.

I know what you’re thinking: But Kate, you don’t have good time management skills! Exactly. This is why I have undertaken to read a book entitled “Procrastination.”

Aside from the fact that it took me almost a month to read “Procrastination”—which weighs in at all of 135 pages—it has proven to be enormously helpful in helping me develop good time management skills. For example (don’t laugh), it turns out the first step in avoiding procrastination w/r/t a project (let’s call it Project X) is to get started on Project X immediately. I had no idea.

So now when I am sitting around thinking “Well, it’s probably high time I started work on Project X ,” instead of then killing 8 hours by reading back issues of Heather Kleinman’s Cosmetic Connection and writing emails to all and sundry, I instead open the appropriate software and get cracking on Project X. This has eaten into my email-writing time considerably, especially because once you get started on this non-procrastination kick, the world is full of things you used to give much less priority to, but which you now launch into at full throttle the second your brain remembers that it is a task requiring completion.

Thus, in the last week I have written 5 pieces, applied for a new position at work, filled out three work-related surveys, recorded and produced a commercial parody, attended two brainstorms, and mailed off a payment for back taxes I’ve owed to the State of NY (43 bucks! Like Pataki doesn’t have twice that stuck in the cushions of his limo!) since 1998. Plus I’ve managed to sort, organize, toss and/or give away roughly a ton of papers and old clothing. (Troublingly, my apartment is—no exaggeration—roughly 10 times messier than it was to begin with, because everything that was on my old bookshelves but is not yet on my new bookshelves is now in a big, book-burning-style heap in the middle of my not-that-large-to-begin-with apartment. There is nothing in the procrastination book about this side effect of good time management skills, but I am in hopes that if I keep plugging away at the mess, eventually I will have shelves of alphabetized books I have no intention of ever reading again.)

Another aspect of this whole procrastination-avoidance scheme is that I have begun to repeatedly kill two birds with a single stone until I am knee-deep in winged corpses. For example, the commercial I made last week will appear in a future product, but it also served as part of my application for the aforementioned position. As another example, you will notice this chatty-yet-warm email has been addressed to both you and The reason for this is simple: I wish to communicate with you, my good friend Elaine, but I also wish to submit pieces to McSweeney’s. Thus, I am ccing M on various emails. Granted, this is the first one, but if this works out, I see emails to my family, coworkers, even complete strangers appearing in the pages of the McSweeney’s website. Oh, I can’t wait.

I am happy to hear of your adventures with Mr. Starbucks and wish you luck in the coming semester. Give my best to Bridget, Noah and Eva when/if you see them. I have a present for Eva hidden somewhere in the thickets of my apartment, which I will have to dig out and put in the mail presently. I am sorry to hear of your friend’s health problems, but I hope your company will be a balm to her.

There is no real news of Kate to report, actually. This whole doing-things-in-a-timely-manner leaves very little time for the kind of amusing incidents that used to happen to me constantly. For example, I went out for beers and Whirlyball (think: lacrosse + basketball + bumper cars) on Friday, and despite my best efforts, was still in bed before 1 a.m. The next morning I woke up in plenty of time for a Pilates open house, where I spent several hours learning about this beautiful fitness technique while eating my weight in turkey potstickers and shrimp. Finally, I just discovered this morning that Patrick O’Brian has passed away, and I am very sorry to hear it because I like his books so much.

You can see what’s happened here: My life is orderly, but devoid of interest. It’s a little worrying. I will keep you apprised of the situation as it unfolds, but in the meantime, thanks for writing and take care. I remain, albeit somewhat uneventfully,

your friend,