Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999
From: Stephen Johnson
Subject: The Terrible mistake you have made.

Dear McSweeney’s,

I’m at work now. I was at work earlier as well, and earlier I was reading a piece on your web site. The piece was entitled “Excerpts from my speech on forest fire prevention” by Arthur Bradford. Mr. Bradford reffered to our national icon of forest fire prevention as “Smokey The Bear”. It irks me. The bear’s name is “Smokey Bear” and should only be called “Smokey Bear”. How can I trust Mr. Bradford’s views on forest fires when he doesn’t even know the name of our nations most famous fire prevention mascot? Please, employ a fact checker. I would do it for you, but I’m too busy producing fine pornography.



- - -

Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999
From: “James P. Walsh”
Subject: Long time listener, first time caller

Dear McSweeney’s,

I hope to add my input to the Word of the Millenium contest. Let me first register my strong objection to Schadenfreude. In addition to the fact that its selection will incite protest due to its connection to a culture now forever stained in our collective consciousness by mystifying conceptual art disguised as film comedy and a string of poorly-received twentieth century wars, my frankest of opinions is it would trivialize Mr McSweeney’s Internet Notion and Paperback Sundry if it selected as Word of the Millenium the brand name of a girl scout cookie.

My entry, however, might require some explanation, since the buttoned-down so-called “traditionalists” might scoff at its categorization as word. It’s more of a word fragment, or a “found word,” or in layman’s terms, a “syllable.” My word is “plex.” Now, now, now. You love “plex.” That fun-to-pronounce, it-girl syllable that enhances your quality of life in such diverse words as “duplex,” “multiplex” and “solar plexus.” It takes another pair of bows with “triplex” and “quadriplex.” It titillates us by threatening to appear in the linguistically inevitable but as yet unuttured “sexplex.” It makes us gasp in suspense and applaud its audacity in “complex,” for it charms us in its mastery of two challenging roles: sophisticated and on-the-go with just the right amount of stress in the adjective, yet demure and unassuming with sensible heels and no stress in the noun. In fashionable evening wear with understated jewelry and a cigarette it appears as “nexus.” In slightly gaudier evening wear with a rhinestone choker and a wrinkled pack of Newports it appears as “NEXIS.” Its breathtaking versatility means it’s ready for the high school math team as a mathematical simplex, or it’s ready for the high school cheerleading team as a herpes simplex. Similarly, it was featured in the unlikely serious role of a very, very large number in googolplex, which I believe I have misspelled. Finally, it even appears in the words “stuplex” and “supplexous” which I have made up for this occasion but hope to see adopted into the wider parlance. In short, an end to Schadenfreuden and other words that allow other contests to rejoice at our despairing choice of a second-rate word: flex your will with plex!

Jim P. Walsh
“Affordable Central Slope with Eat-In KIT!”
Brooklyn, New York

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Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999
From: Adam Wisniewski
Subject: Re: The Best

Best Local Trade Journal – Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern Sometimes you will read the Williamsburg-based literary journal Timothy McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and think, “These are thinkers of vision. These are people who print 30-page interviews with geophysicists. Or at least solicit them.” McSweeney’s is useful in the way Pulp & Paper’s monthly updates on different styles of paper rolls guide that industry, taking on a sprightly life of their own. Issue three is out now, and as they promise their subscribers, “all those who have waited patiently will be soon rewarded meagerly.” So there. -John Caramanica

Subscription inquiries to 394A 9th Street, Manhattan

—Village Voice, Sept. 29 – Oct. 5

Dear McSweeney’s,

As a long-time subscriber, I was shocked to hear of your (impending?) move to Williamsburg and Manhattan. McSweeney’s has been, for me, the pride of middle-west Brooklyn, and as such, you can imagine the betrayal I felt when I read of your relocation. Now, I know that Williamsburg has a certain “hip” cache that perhaps the south Slope can’t offer, but can The Best Local Trade Journal effectively cover the trades with access to the world only via the G and L trains? I think not! I will note, however, that it is quite stunning that you managed to snag the exact same address in Manhattan that you previously held in Brooklyn. Bravo!

Perhaps I can persuade you to cancel those new leases with a tidbit I picked up at the MTA’s Transit Museum a few weeks back. At one time, the elevated, express BMT line, which currently runs underneath 4th. Ave., had a separate, local line that ran down 5th. Ave. I discovered this in the sea of old subway maps posted there in a puzzling, slightly chronological manner. Extrapolating for height, I believe that this line may have run at the approximate level of the living room of my 5th Ave. apartment (or perhaps the one above it, which coincidentally is rented by one Miss Dixcy, who was previously published in your letters column), although I haven’t seen any photos of the time to confirm this. But I am having trouble conceptualizing of how two tracks would fit in the small width of said avenue without running extremely close to the dwellings on either side. Surely the noise was tremendous! I find it surprising that no one I’ve spoken to knows of this mysterious train or its dimensions or if riders could see into my home while riding by going clackity-clack. Thus, the mystery lives on. And so should you. Here. These are the magical enigmas that are Park Slope, Brooklyn, and so I ask of you (nicely), baby, please don’t go.

all The Best,

Adam Wisniewski

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Date: Wed, 29 Sep 1999
From: Christina Nunez
Subject: don’t be mad.

Dear McSweeney’s,

My reaction to Tuesday’s piece would best be expressed in the form of a poem:

At Thomas’ post office, life is sublime.
Who can say why we read what is sent?
The workers, she says, they have a good time.

The pieces she writes, they turn on a dime.
They hint at meaning where none is meant.
At Thomas’ post office, life is sublime.

Nonsequiturs happen, but so can a rhyme.
Efficient and different, they earn their rent:
The workers, she says, they have a good time.

Someone got angry, but is that a crime?
She wanders off-topic, but will not relent.
At Thomas’ post office, life is sublime.

The glass makes their antics a strange form of mime.
Explain your words, Lucy, make sense, and repent
The workers, you say, they have a good time.

“Do you know where the two judges met?”
Do you know where the form of this villanelle went?
At Thomas’ post office, life is sublime.
The workers, she says, they have a good time.

- - -

Subject: Two Comments Re: Your Latest
Date: Tue, 28 Sep 1999
From: “K. Thor Jensen”

Actually, I suppose the first is more an anecdote:

I was standing in the periodicals section of Coliseum Books holding a stack of books and magazines, atop which was the latest issue (#3) of McSweeney’s. A reasonably well-dressed businessman looked down at my stack and said “McSweeney’s, eh?” and I responded “Yes, do you read McSweeney’s?” He replied that he did not, and I attempted to give him a brief outline of the contents and general direction of your periodical. My explanation, however, was cut short as I noticed that the man was not eyeing the dense, almost Kabbalistic design of your latest, but rather the crotch of my pants, and I excused myself.

The second is a comment with a note of complaint to it:

In the John Warner piece, “The Circus Elephants Look Sad Because They Are,” which runs from pages 31-35 in your latest, it is stated that matches in the Ultimate Fighting Championship end only by submission. This is patently untrue; the Ultimate Fighting Championship rules mandate that the in-ring referee can stop the match at any time if a competitor is unable to continue. I direct your attention to UFC 6 where Tank Abbott, “The Human Concussion Machine,” essentially reduced Paul Varelans’ face to a bowl of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee brand ravioli. The referee stopped that fight, and whilst watching a replay, Abbott commented: “I’m starting to get sexually aroused. You better cut that out.”


K. Thor Jensen

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Dear McSweeney’s,

It was a real pleasure to read Christine Kenneally’s dissection of the affront that is the Outback Steakhouse. I have one small thing to add: On further review (as we say in American football), the ball in that beach ad does appear to be the oblong variety used in Australian-rules football. It’s also all white, whereas soccer balls usually feature a black-and-white pattern of hexagons. Is the Australian-rules football usually white, or was that chosen to show up better on TV? I do not know; on this I defer to Ms. Kenneally. At any rate, the ball in the ad would be more easily mistaken for a volleyball than a soccer ball, although it is neither.

Also, there is (or at least was) a Pander Bear, as identified by the late Sen. Paul Tsongas in the 1992 presidential campaign. I believe he was referring to Bill Clinton, who I’ll bet would rather be known as “Pander Bear,” which is kind of cute in a way (especially when Tsongas said it in that voice of his), than “First Elected President to Be Impeached” or “Lying Scumbag” or whatever. Now, I’m no Republican, but it’s hard to argue with either of those latter two monikers, sad to say.

Quibbling aside, brava, Ms. Kenneally, and bravo, McSweeney’s. (Or bravo on both. I don’t know the protocol.)

Best regards,
John J. Edwards III

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Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1999
Subject: Feed the World

Hello, The word of the millenium is “undead.” Un-dead. As in “the undead.”

I would like to respond to your publification of the offensive content of an incendiary, inflammatory letter written by one Christine Kenneally, who claims to speak for all of Australia; and I would warn Australia: Don’t let this woman speak for you any more!

To claim that the Outback Steakhouse is not the real-deal when it comes to accessible Australian culture is a travesty, and a slap in the face to the consumerism and multi-culturalism that have made our fair nation fare so well so far. I see Ms. Kenneally’s behavior as an outrageous act of jealousy and reverse xenophobia; Oh, we’re not bonzer enough for your Aussie-tizers? Not Hooley-Dooley enough for your Kookaburra wings? Obviously, Ms. Kenneally fears that if we absorb these cultural commodities into our nation, her exclusive Australian identity will cease to be so…exclusive. Well, I got news for you, toots: Just ‘cause you live there doesn’t mean you’re the only one who knows what a Down-under Dinnie is all about. We Americans are ready, and tough enough for your rugged Outback lifestyle. Remember: Our country, too, came from the scummiest elements of England. Oh Sure, the Outback Steakhouse isn’t the “real” Australia. But you’re actually trying to tell me that Australians don’t “put another shrimp on the barbie, mate”? Come on! I saw that on TV, like, ten years ago! Next you’ll be telling me that Foster’s isn’t “Australian for beeeah, mate,”; or that Australians don’t drive Subaru Outbacks like Crocodile Dundee does. Look, get over yourself. If I want to walkabout to the Out’ ‘house for some Kanga-stew that’s my damn business. Keep your elitist, separatist agenda “out back” where it belongs. “Back out,” as it were. We Americans have given the world our McDonald’s; isn’t it time for you to open the doors to the Outback Steakhouse you’ve been treasuring – hording – so long? Open your doors, and your heart, to the world, Christine Kenneally.

Raymond Olson

- - -

Dear McSweeney’s:

I have noticed that your webpage is mostly black and white. I say “mostly” because I have also noticed that the text which links your pages (archives to the main page, etc.) is gold until clicked on… at which point it turns grey. Grey is neither black nor white but not especially colorful either. I have often heard grey referred to as “warm,” “cool,” or “neutral.” Though I am no expert on greys, I feel that your particular shade could be accurately described as neutral.

At the beginning of most of your pages is a line drawing of what appears to be an old-fashioned washing machine without the wringer attachment.

Thank you for your time.

Kevin A. Strickland

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Subject: Schoedenfreude?
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1999

Ahem: “Schadenfreude.” Not “schoedenfreude”. “Schadenfreude”. Pronounced like “shah”, the former ruler of Iran who was run out of that country on a rail. Which was hysterical! I laughed about that for weeks!

— Francis Heaney

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Subject: Episode III
Date: Mon, 27 Sep 1999
From: Eiler Marcher

Dear McSweeney’s,

I have received Version 3.0 of McSweeney’s Paperback Notion and I am impressed. Not only does it provide me with superb writing on my daily commute, it doubles as a good knock-off of a magic spell book. This comes in handy when I am bothered by people on the subway, as I can hold it open and recite Latin, thus creating the illusion that I am hexxing them. They usually move, either out of fear of being hexxed or fear of a crazy Hollander pointing at them and reciting Latin. Either way, it is effective.

Tom and Michelle spelled their word of the millennium incorrectly, which should disqualify their entry. It is spelled ‘Schadenfreude’. Even if they had spelled it correctly, they would still be incorrect. The word of the millenium is ‘Compote’.

Effectively yours,

Eiler Marcher

- - -

From: “Tom and Michelle”
Subject: Egotism
Date: Fri, 24 Sep 1999

Dear Mr. McSweeney,

Regarding your discussion of the word of the millennium, I find it egotistical that the words are all English. I did note the suggestion of “schoedenfreude” as a possibility, but I also felt some of that self-same Teutonic pleasure in the fact that your author was ignored. (If it isn’t “cheeky and self-conscious” enough to suggest that I know what the word means and use it correctly while revealing nothing— readers be damned— then I must assume that your mail is fictious and you ignore your writers like Paul McCartney stepping into a limo in 1964)

While my knowledge of German includes this word and any used to make “Hogan’s Heroes” seem more ethnically correct, it should be pointed out that I am Irish. No Gaelic words pass muster for your millennium test, and the only English words originating in Ireland are the phrases “dead drunk” and “car bomb.” Neither of which should be used in the same sentence.

P.S. Ok, ok, I happened upon “schoedenfreude” is an essay about the Red Sox when I was 14. Still counts.

- - -

Dear McSweeney’s,

About Lucy Thomas:
Send me anything that woman writes.
If she writes a letter to her mom…send it…
if she writes a grocery list…send it
if she writes a bad poem …send it
if she writes a check…send it

Send the check first.

Ann Ice

- - -

An Open Letter to the United States of America
from Christine Kenneally, on behalf of all Australians everywhere.

Dear U.S.A.,

Of all the food and/or franchise-related travesties that you have committed (soup-bowl sized lattes masquerading as stimulants not being the least) in the name of Australia (beloved country of origin, home of the wombat, excessive eye wrinkles, and a charming, sort of devil-may-care willingness to insult friends socially), the Outback Steakhouse is one. Paul Hogan is the worst, but we do take some of the responsibility for him.

As it is now less than a year until the Australian hosted Olympic games, I herein attempt to draw for you a clear line between televisual and franchise reality and the other, old fashioned kind of reality. With respect to Australia, its wildlife, and its denizens, I have listed a few points below that you, America, may find interesting.

Regarding the Outback Steakhouse advertising:

—The outback is a geographical space. It does not mean ’outback1 in the sense that the entire Australian continent is somehow ’outback1 to America, you know, down south and kind of behind. The outback denotes the desert; it connotes dryness, harshness, and death. By definition, you cannot have a beach in the outback.

—Typically, when we play “Australian Rules Football” on the beach, we use an “Australian Rules” football, not a soccer ball. This makes it easier to drop-kick the ball, to hand-pass it, and to call the game, “Australian Rules football.”

—Yes, it is a barbie. No, they are not shrimp. We call the big ones prawns. Shrimps are small, hardly worth the chewing. We barbeque our prawns on television more often than anywhere else. We generally prefer snags (sausages) with tomato sauce (ketchup) and white bread (white bread).

—The didgeridoo, though held in high regard as an instrument and an icon, is not a common feature of the beach barbie.

—There is no “steak and chips constellation” in the outback sky.

—We do not plunge our hunting knives (we have no hunting knives) Excalibur-style into Uluru and then pull them out again when wearing our leather bikinis (we have no leather bikinis).

Regarding the Outback Steakhouse menu:

—“Down under dinnies.” No Australian has ever said this phrase, and few have heard it (I am the only one). We do have the word “dunny” though; it is an outhouse toilet.

—Aussie-tizers*. There is no such word. Nor is there an Appestralia.

—Russell1s Marina Bay, as in “A Bloomin1 OnionS from Russell1s Marina Bay.” There is no such place.

—Kookaburra Wings, as in “Known as Buffalo chicken wings here in the States.” But not, I might add, known as Kookaburra wings anywhere in Australia.

—Hooley Dooley, as in “a Hooley Dooley portion of our caesar salad.” Hmmm. Hooley Dooley salad, perhaps with some Squiggely Squaggley sauce and some Yippety Jippety croutons.

—Darned, as in “The Wallaby Darned.” Used about as often as wily (as in the coyote wily), grizzly (as in the bear grizzly), and bald (as in the eagle bald).

—‘Shrooms, as in “Sauteed ’Shrooms.” Not only is this not an Australian word, this diminutive defies the rules of abbreviation in all reasonable dialects of English (’lects of ’glish).

—Ab-original, as in “An Outback Ab-original.” Get it? I cannot describe to you the hysteria and distaste that this phrase provokes in me.

—Bonzer, as in “Bonzer salads.” We say “butta”, we spell it “butter.” You say “butter,” you spell it “butter.” But, when we say “bonza,” we mean “bonza,” and we spell it “bonza.” There is no “bonzer,” as there is no “Honder Accord” or “Pander Bear.”

—Walkabout soup, as in “A unique presentation of an Australian favorite.” It must be said that when Aboriginals go walkabout, they are generally not known to take soup. Neither Australian nor favorite.

Reckon, as in “A unique presentation of an Australian favorite. Reckon!” “You” can “reckon,” as in “you reckon?” But you cannot “Reckon!”

Micheal Dundee, as in “The Micheal J. Crocodile Dundee. A 14-ounce New York Strip.” The original Crocodile Dundee was shot dead in a gunfight with Northern Territory police a few weeks ago. He shot a police officer dead before he was shot.

“Chocolate Thunder from Down Under.” Am I the only person who gets the scatological implications of this so-called dessert?

—We do say, “G’day.” It is pronounced, “G’day.”

Hoping this clears things up.

Yours sincerely,
Christine Kenneally

- - -

Date: Tue, 21 Sep 1999
From: Ron Russell
Subject: life can be long.

Dear McSweeney’s-

Yesterday, i received my Lifetime Subscriber Certificate and issue 3 of McSweeney’s in the mail.

Number 3 is beautiful.

I will cherish the certificate until the laser print fades.

Thank you.

Ron Russell constant, low-level anxiety

- - -


The word of the millennium is “nacho.” For three reasons: 1. It is pleasing to the ear. 2. It is an adjective that becomes a noun when plural. 3. It allows the amusing comment, “Hey, that’s nacho cheese. That’s MY cheese.”

Carol Magary

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From: “Chris Slaughter”
Subject: Missing third installment
Date: Mon, 20 Sep 1999

Dear MR, This last Saturday I received my third installmentof the McSweeney’s manilla, book-rate mailing envelope. Unfortunately, the envelope was badly torn and my third installment of McSweeney’s was no longer included. I called the USPS (United States Postal Service) and they told me that I should contact their lost and found department. The woman at the lost and found department, Janet, made it pretty clear that this sort of thing (torn book-rate packaging) just simply didn’t happen at the USPS. After a couple of minutes I deduced thatJanet was not going to be very helpful in my search for the missing McSweeney’s. So…I called the USPS back and this time, Callister was kind enough to let me know (confindentially, of course, I didn’t hear this from her, and this was just to save me time and energy) that my 3rd McSweeney’s installment was lost forever, and that “this sort of thing” actually happens more than one would guess, but that, since the package was sent book-rate and not insured or anything, because why would you insure book-rate anyway since it would pretty much defeat the purpose of the book-rate discount and isn’t even a book-rate mailing option anyway, there was really not much that the MR (or whoever the sender was, in this case you, the MR – I’m just adding that part for the sake of this message – Callister doesn’t know that you are the MR, she just knows that someone sent me this thing) could do about it either, but that, in any case, the MR would have to initiate the “investigation”, if there was going to be an “investigation”, but that it would, pretty much for sure, be a big waste of time and effort. So, in light of this, I have two questions: 1. Will you be lauching an investigation? If you feel up to fighting THE MAN on this one, I’m right there with you. I’ve got the names of the USPS employees. I’ve got the folded/spindeled (it’s actually spindeled, if you can believe it)/mutiliated envelope. I’ve got the intimidating last name. So, If you want, I say let’s do this thing, although I must ask that we leave Callister out of it. She was, after all, helpful, and in fact,remarkably helpful by USPS standards. (She must be new, or very near to retirement.) 2. Will you send me another copy of McSweeney’s 3rd installment? According to Janet (who has lied to me today at least once, it would appear), companies have the cost of such shipments “factored into their cost structure”. 3. Do you have a “cost structure” that you “factor” this sort of thing into? – Sorry, that’s a third question. I await you decision/reply, Chris Slaughter

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Subject: FW: Undeliverable Mail
Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999

Dear Mr. McSweeney:

I think that the Best Word of the Millennium thingy that has has been carrying out on your letters page has to be clarified. Is this a decision re: the best word to “speak” or is this a best word to “write.” If it is the best one to speak, then by all means have it be “erstwhile” or “skel-e-ton” or whatever (“whatever”?). But if this is indeed intended to uncover and highlight best word to write, then it is—must be—savvy. I reiterate: best word to write = savvy.

Fritz Lenneman

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Date: Tue, 21 Sep 1999
Subject: letters page

Dear McS,

Normally I try and avoid becoming involved in the sort of imbroligio currently underway on your letters page, preferring to stay “above the fray” as the French say, only they say it much more elegantly then I. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to add the recriminations and odd portents found on the page in question. More specifically, it concerns the Colleen Werthmann-Jesse Lee Greenwood-David (Abel/Daver) Mandel troika. I must also apologize for my relatively tardiness in addressing this matter, but what with work and all, these letters can get away from one. The first thing that struck me after absorbing all of Ms. Werthmann’s fine treatises was that her birthday is shared by two friends of my own (alas, just the day, not the year). In fact one of these friends, Ms. Elizabeth Ashley Hodges, known colloquially as “Betsy,” in fact threw her own 30th birthday party this past weekend, despite the passage of several days since the actual day of her birth. Also, this self same friend attended Bryn Mawr college, sister school to Haverford College, where she took many classes, presently attended by one Jesse Lee Greenwood. Further blurring the lines is the fact that it would appear that Ms. Werthmann hails from the same fair burg as “Betsy” and myself, namely the Minneapolis-St. Paul metroplex. Also, I subscribe to HBO and have watched “Sex and the City”, although not the one Colleen appeared in, though had I known, I would have (watched that is). As Mr. Mandel is concerned, I consider myself “able” and I used to enjoy the dramatic stylings of Mr. Howie Mandel as the lovable Fiscus on St Elsewhere many years ago. A bit tenuous, yes, but there you have it.


Todd Bennington

p.s. My other friend sharing the birthday of Sept 7 is named Stacy Rouleau

p.p.s. Based on my friendship with Stacy and “Betsy”, I feel confident that Colleen and I would get on famously.

- - -

Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999
Subject: HOPE

I received the package & I was overjoyed; the magnet is splendid. Would you print this letter if I started writing in all CAPS, NOT FOR ANY PURPOSE BUT TO GARNER ATTENTION.

I should hope not, but one day, and this is a lazy dream, one day I will catch the attention and praise of your forum. This is all a boy-man can do.

The words for the millennium are ‘dairy products’. Good honest english nouns.

I have nothing further to say, except hold tight.


- - -

Date: Tue, 21 Sep 1999
Subject: Final argument.

I am flattered that STOPPAS recieved such ado. All corrections have been noted and taken into consideration for the future. I will rebute with this one argument and then I will stop this conversation. Any more will make people sad.

Neither Spiderman nor Peter Parker has a pet marmet.

Josh Seybert

- - -

Date: Tue, 21 Sep 1999
Subject: Correction

Dear McSweeney,

I was very pleased that you printed my last letter, but I was a bit embarrassed to find a mistake in it. If you would please allow me to make the following correction:

In the letter, I stated that it appeared that in order to get published on your webpage a letter had to be either 1) obnoxiously verbose, 2) cheeky and selfconscious, 3) laden with neo-nerdisms, 4) written by someone who couldn’t get on the webpage any other way, or 5) written by a complete wanker. I see nothing new that contradicts that statement — including my letter — which brings me to the point where the error took place: I said, after all that, that my letter fell into “one” of the aforementioned categories (and that’s why you should [have] print[ed] it); I should have said, rather, that my letter fell into “one or more” of the aforementioned categories. In fact my letter was
1) obnoxious (though regrettably unverbose)
2) very cheeky and very selfconscious (I even had the cheekiness to give myself a [very ineffective] pen name)
3) written by someone who couldn’t get on the webpage any other way (my two submissions to you went unanswered)
4) written by a complete wanker (self-explanatory).
So, the only category which does not definitely apply to my letter is “laden with neo-nerdisms”; I’m unclear on that one because I don’t have the faintest idea what that means, “laden with neo-nerdisms.”

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule, and one big one would be Colleen Werthmann’s sweet, endearing, noble response to Jesse Little Bighorn’s sugary fan-mail. Such loveliness, such unabashed nice-ness, warms the heart. I shit you not. Colleen is a class act all the way. And I like it that that other guy wrote in that he was stroking his girlfriend’s hairdo, that too was nice.

But then those other people should stop talking about Spiderman, please.

I player-hate sometimes, but I’m not a player-hater.

I give props where props are due.

Mad props,
Raymond Olson
Einar Swanson

- - -

Date: Tue, 21 Sep 1999
Subject: also

Dear Mr. McSweeney,

I am writing this between strokes of Demian Parker’s girlfriend’s hair. It is indeed quite silky.


Tim Carvell

- - -

Date: Tue, 21 Sep 1999 14:02:04 -0700 (PDT)
From: Stephen Smith
Subject: best word

Dear McSweeney’s:

Best word of the millenium? You’d have to look seriously at:


In the end, though, I feel sure you have to go with a word of Flann O’Brien’s, you’ll find it in At-Swim-Two-Birds, which may or may not be the funniest book ever, depending. Maybe you recall the scene where a mythical figure of the main character’s acquaintance is speaking to the question of whether kangaroos should be considered to be human? Viz.:

“To admit the kangaroo unreservedly to be a man would inevitably involve one in a number of distressing implications, the kangaroolity of women and your wife beside you being one example.”

Say it with me: kangaroolity.

Stephen Smith
Toronto, Ontario

- - -

Date: Sun, 19 Sep 1999
From: Sarah Lamanuzzi
Subject: Humble Thanks

Dear McSweeney’s,

Thank you for ushering me into the harsh world of Authorship and Publication. I now understand how one finds himself addicted most perilously to the Gamble which is Authoring. There is the chance that he has not counted the cards correctly and that, after playing his “dog saves boy” hand, he finds that the dealer lays down “boy meets girl” and steals his chips most mercilessly. The Author again antes, and the Genre Game begins again, subject to the vagaries of the audience and the whims of the McSweeney’s Letters Board.

All this to say that the non-publication of my last letter only prompts me to write again, like the thwarted Author who sends in the same manuscript under five different titles. I anticipate your continued Author Interviews, in which I live vicariously by listening to those who have beaten the odds and have found their idle thoughts and impassioned voice on the typewritten page (or, when Truly Great, on the pages of a certain Tendency).

There was a boy (well, he is older than I, but I somehow find it troubling to call him “man”) who left our fair shore for that of the eastern region of the country, and as he disappeared from my daily life, he left me with one life-changing note. It read, “p.s.”

Sarah Lamanuzzi
San Diego, CA

- - -

Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999
From: Eiler Marcher
Subject: re: Secrets Revealed

Dear McSweeney’s,

Josh Seybert’s theory of Peter Parker/Spiderman being the same person is laughable. His recent contribution to your letters section has more holes than the entire Ranaqu trench down in Olduvai. Allow me to demonstrate:

1. Seybert’s Theory of Peter Parker as Spiderman (henceforth referred to as STOPPAS) makes the assumption that Spiderman is directing his inner dialogue towards the reader. Perhaps Spiderman truly wishes he was Peter Parker the journalist and not a crime-fighter. After all, Peter probably has a large expense account and access to free cameras. Who pays for Spiderman’s expenses?

2. STOPPAS claims that Peter Parker has Spiderman’s uniform. Imagine, for a moment, that Peter Parker is not an upstanding citizen. As a matter of fact, he’s a petty thief who steals things from his neighbor’s apartments while they’re at work or church. Maybe he stole it from the laundry room. I once caught Roger Schugren (neighbor) changing into one of my T-shirts that he obviously took from my dryer. Does that make him me? Of course not! Perhaps Peter’s motiviation for stealing the suit is for purposes of impressing or intimidating the locals.

3. Finally, STOPPAS assumes that Spiderman does NOT suffer from uncontrollable rage. We don’t know this! Comic books are short and usually focus on action involved with crime fighting. Who is to say that Spiderman doesn’t go into his local deli, order a ham sandwich no mustard, on rye. He gets mustard. He proceeds to trash the deli. They don’t show this in the comics. I call it rage.

In summation, STOPPAS is absolutely silly.


Eiler Marcher

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Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999
From: Jesse Lee Littlewood
Subject: I Survived Hurricane Floyd, And All I Got Was Stupid Wet-Butt

Dear MacSeeneys, et. all:

Quote: “I’m sorry, but the network is down.”


Fear. Anxiety. Hives. One word, one word only… Werthleen! Werthleen! (the wind whispers her name!) Must… contact… Werthleen! Alas, alas. Half-feet of aqua in the Computing Center’s Basement (located in scenic Hilles Hall, for those not in the know), the juice got cut. Sadness. Depression. Hunger.

Wind, oh the wind! Rapping at my lock’d window, begging me: Come out and play! Pete Rose-slide in the mud! Free Willy-flop on the lawn! Temptation. Then a savior, electron-gunned into the common room: Pokemon.

Musical interlude: gotta catch ’em all, gotta catch ’em all…

Q n’ A Section:

My late father (read: always tardy) called me “JL” until I made him stop, which I never did. My best friend calls me “Hey, you!”, and my dashing/debonair ladyfriend just pinches me inappropriately whenever she wants her ears scratched. Someday (I am not joking here) I will grow up to be a very rich Country-Western Music star named “Jesse Lee Switchback.” My mother will be so proud, her little man in silver pants.


I kiss like a drowning fish.

Foot size:

None of your business!

Rice and Beans Section:

Sure. Come on n’ get it, but I recommend “Denny’s” in Portland, where it closes at 12:30am. Or perhaps the local “Wa Wa.” Please respond, I’m lonely.

—Irving Washington

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From: “Raymond Olson”
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999

Dear Sirs,
Will you put this letter on your webpage? As far as I can tell, for a letter to be “printable” on your page, it must be one of the following:
1) obnoxiously verbose
2) cheeky and selfconscious
3) laden with neo-nerdisms
4) written by someone who couldn’t get on the webpage any other way
5) written by a complete wanker

I think my letter falls into one of these categories. I won’t tell you which.

Very cleverly,
Einar Swanson
Larson, WI

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From: “Don Zacharias”
Subject: Re: Josh Seybert’s “Secrets Revealed.”
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999

Dear McSweeney’s,

I was still skeptical after reading Mr. Seybert’s largely apocryphal information regarding Peter Parker/The Amazing Spider-Man, so I turned to a recent installment of the printed edition of the Spider-Man comic (Sept. 16) for refutation. In that day’s comic The Amazing Spider-Man is seen blatantly removing his Spider suit and changing into Peter Parker in front of that girl that he is involved with, as if he’s not even concerned that if someone were to know the true human identity of Spider-Man, that information alone would consitute not only a gross violation of the superhero code, but also a great deal of potential danger for both Peter Parker and The Amazing Spider-Man.

Don Zacharias
Los Angeles

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Subject: Words words words
Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999

Dear McSweeney’s,

Oh, sure, it’s very easy to just keep coming up with fancy multisyllabic words for the “best word of the millennium” competition, if competition it is, and not merely an idle time-waster, but let us not consider that — in any case: we can go on all day about rococo words like “antepenultimate” and “schadenfreude”, but while these words are dazzling us with their sequins and high heels and the fact that they can be combined to anagram to “Helen, undefeated American, putts” (apparently a secret message about a really good LPGA member named Helen, but I am not qualified to evaluate such a message, not being a sports fan of any ilk), other, unsung words are constantly working behind the scenes to assure the smooth transfer of knowledge from one person to another. Words like “and”, “the”, “is”, “when”, “of”. Do these words not deserve recognition? Are we so swayed by a pretty face?

Not that other factors should not be taken into consideration. Certainly the overwhelming cultural sensation at the end of the millennium is still irony, whatever the hungry magazine writers desperate for a hook have told you about the “new sincerity”, a phrase which oozes with irony the moment you put the quotations marks around it. I believe this fact must be acknowledged in selecting a millennium-appropriate word, and so I propose that, because of the cute self-referentiality it offers, plus the utilitarianism of the word itself, that our choice be the word “this”, so we can finally, definitively say that “this” is the Best Word of the Millennium. (Arch eyebrow, smirk, reflect, feel sadness.)

Francis Heaney

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Date: Sat, 18 Sep 1999
Subject: Divertita e confusa….

Dear McSweeney’s,

As a recently transplanted brooklynite I picked up a copy of your third (?) issue at a bookstore on 7th avenue, on the strength of the copyright page alone. But now, having attempted a read through, am at a loss… Is anything true, or truly diverting, or is it all plain insanity? Maybe I should just write in Italian, my native tongue, in which it is more acceptable to persevere for hours without making a point. I thought English, or rather Americans, wouldn’t stand for vacuous locution. Obviously I was wrong. There is, at least, an audience of one.

What do you mean by all your vastly illegible tiny print? Your implied funny wavering? The futurist movement is defunct, but I guess ignorance of history, alchemy, and typology make up the difference. People are hurt everyday day from what they don’t know. And as I write this I smart from all the missed references… I feel on the verge of challenging you (plural?), not to a duel of wits but of experience.

I commend you nonetheless for spewing forth, as one must, outrage and incredulity. Resistance is the fabric of successful isolation, which in time becomes integrated into the system, to the degree that opposites must embrace each other to claim definition.

Certo, se potessi esprimermi senza mezzi termini, direi che siamo pazzi insieme, e che lo sposalizio, perci˜,  perfetto: Scrittore e lettore si uniscono nell’esperienza della scrittura-lettura—if your eyesight affords you the privilege.

Have you visited the Museum of Jurassic Technology (Santa Monica, California)? If you haven’t I suggest you do… I drink my coffee out of their fluted cup every day. Insanity is contagious, you know, in the same way that sanity purports to rule.

Con Amore,

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Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999
Subject: Re: A plea
From: “kevin guilfoile”

Dear McSweeney’s,

In the light of recent events, I would like, once again, to plead for the immediate release of an as-yet-unpublished investigative report titled “How a Tight Housing Market Is Affecting Our Nation’s Purveyors of Hate.” By quoting only from America’s most respected newspapers, this exhaustively-researched article reveals that the assailants of both Abner Louima and Matthew Shepard, as well as L.A. Community Center gunman Buford Furrow, “Racial Holy War” proponent Matthew Hale, and other infamous perpetrators and instigators of hate crimes, despite having grown well into their adult years, were still living at home with their parents.

On Wednesday, September 15, 47-year-old Larry Gene Ashbrook “spewed anti-Baptist rhetoric” as he opened fire on a church in Fort Worth, Texas, tragically killing seven young people before turning the gun on himself. The following was reported the next day by the Dallas Morning News:

“No note explaining the shooting was found on Ashbrook or at his home about a 10-minute drive from the church. Nor were any clues found in several years-old journals discovered in the house, WHICH ASHBROOK HAD SHARED WITH HIS FATHER until the older man’s death in July, said FBI agent Robert Garrity.”

We could all pretend that the two things have nothing to do with each other, that this is just another Lincoln-had-a-secretary-named-Kennedy- and-Kennedy-had-a-secretary-named-Lincoln coincidence. We could, that is, if evidence to the contrary, as compiled in “How a Tight Housing Market,” weren’t so compelling. Clearly, we need a coordinated, nationwide effort to help get America’s bigots off their parents’ couches and into their own apartments, where nobody will hassle them about their reproduction German flags and their mimeographed ska music fanzines.

Why shouldn’t virulent racists be able to put their Doc Martens up on the sofa, or eat macaroni and cheese, not in the dining room, but on a tray table, in front of the television? Why should ultranationalists always have to wear an undershirt, plus a sweater, plus a scarf? Sometimes, while leaving one’s fanatical literature on neighborhood windshields, one really doesn’t want to wear a hat. So what if one catches one’s death in the cold, if the alternative is a homicidal rampage probably ending in one’s own violent death at the hands of a government whose authority one doesn’t even recognize?

This problem is festering in attic bedrooms across the country, while corporate news-gathering drones continue to bury it in the seventh graph.

Kevin Guilfoile
Chicago, IL

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Date: Fri, 17 Sep 1999
From: parker
Subject: love train

dear sirs or madam,

I am writing this between strokes of my girlfriend’s silky hair.

Thank you,
Demian Parker

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Date: Wed, 15 Sep 1999
Subject: Secrets Revealed.

Faithful Readers,

I am in no way shape, form, texture or layer trying to dispell of the great mysteries in life. Encyclopedia Brown has done this enough for all of us; but recently some information was handed to me by a person extending his hand, which contained the information. Indeed my own research has found nothing but evidence pointing to this maybe laughable, but shocking theory.

Here we go.

Peter Parker is really Spider Man

I suppose there are a few out there who will shout “Poppycock!” at these words. Then they will watch something on Tv. Then perhaps enjoy some cereal. I will therefor outline my research by typing on a keyboard, directly located in front of me.

1. At certain times that Spider-man (also known as “Spidey”) swings through the city of New York, internal thoughts reveals him as Peter Parker; through such veiled messages as “Good thing people do not know that in real life, I am Peter Parker” or “Peter Parker and Spiderman are the same person, which is me”

2. There are several pictures found in issues of Spiderman showing Peter Parker putting on the Spider-man (Spidey) outfit.

3. Spider-Man in no way is green and suffers from uncontrollable rage (this is the Incredible Hulk, who is neither).

There will probably now be agents from Marvel comics that will come over soon to break my legs. Unless there aren’t. In which case I will not worry too much. It’s better not to worry. More things can get done. Take this information for it is worth.

Josh Seybert

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Date: Wed, 15 Sep 1999
Subject: ‘The Daver’

Woza McSweeney:

As I sit at my day job, a dingy post in a large but modest international nongovernmental agency, the cockles of my heart toasting merrily over the zealously epiphanous embers of The Daver’s healing invitations, I toast the toaster and extend my services to him (as well as to Mr. J.L. Greenwood, former of Portland, currently of Haverford, PA [albeit under slightly different auspices, etc.! — Ed.]), should he prove amenable to an interview with me. If he chooses to be interview’d by me, and his buffet preference remains steadfast, may I then be so bold as to recommend the Old Country Buffet, or perhaps Shoney’s, since we may be meeting each other (geographically as well as metaphorically) halfway, as is the media-friendly custom.

If he chooses to interview me, for which he seemed to have been preparing, allow me to post for his edification my own miniature biography:

“Colleen Werthmann”, 1970 (850 cm X 960 cm, watercolor on gouache, on loan from the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, gift of the Lila Acheson Wallace & Readers’ Digest Fund) is the author of a short humor piece and several letters to the editor in McSweeney’s Blues-Jazz Odyssey as well as McSweeney’s Windfall Republic. Having appeared in an ill-fated, unauthorized production of the little-known jewel XENAMENOFRITO after an eight-year stint with a leading experimental theater group, she abandoned the stage (excepting the performance and authorship of her own works CATHOLIC SCHOOL GIRLS RULE, FIRE IN THE HOLE, and SHE HATES HER SUPERVISOR), preferring to concentrate on her lucrative television and film career. When she is not starring in extremely minor roles (’90’s Receptionist, ‘Lisa’, ‘Junkie’, ‘Paramedic #3", etc.) she is honing her carefully worded press releases. She entertains children by devising cryptic games and puzzles for them on the Electronic Playpen, the “Inter-Net”, and will soon be published in “Mirth of a Nation”. Although she has never been bar (or even bas!) mitzvahed, her father was one of the chief architect-carvers for the world’s largest ice carving, the St. Paul Winter Carnival Ice Castle. Ms. Werthmann dedicates this interview to the gracious Mr. ‘The Daver’ Mandel. Remember, David:

Sometimes there is only one set
of footprints in the sand,
because the LORD is carrying you.


New York City