Category Archives: Writing

Building Code Violations for the Love Shack

Read my newest piece in McSweeney’s, Building Code Violations for the Love Shack.

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The First.

It is the 6th of February, 1966. Lancashire. Matilda rests on the hospital bed, breathing hard. Her husband, John, holds her hand. The doctor tells Matilda that she’s doing well: One more push and the baby will be out. Matilda closes her eyes and grimaces. There is a small, feeble cry.

The doctor stands up, holding the baby. “Mr. Astley, it’s a boy.”

“A boy?” John asks. “We thought it was going to be a girl.” John and Matilda, exhausted, didn’t expect this.

They did not expect this boy, and they have no name ready. John fumbles verbally for a bit, and finally pronounces that the baby’s name is Rick. The Astleys look at Rick for a bit and then, shaking their heads, hand him off to a nurse.

John looks up, to his god, shaking his head as if to say “Okay, you got me. You got me.”

And that is the story of the first rickroll.

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Dear Sir or Madam,

Please advise me of your gender so I know how to address further correspondence.

Thank you,
Curtis Retherford.

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Did You Know?


Did you know that the first working prototype for a telephone was invented in 1713, by the amateur French chemist Henri de Champ? If so, you are profoundly mistaken. The telephone was actually invented by Alexander Graham Bell, as nearly everyone is aware. Sure, there were some other people who invented similar devices, but Bell invented the one that became popular, which is why everyone learns his name in elementary school. Were you home-schooled or something? Who the hell is Henri de Champ? History is not yours to invent.


Did you know what Mark Twain was born two weeks after the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1835, and died, as he himself predicted, in 1910, a day after the comet’s subsequent appearance? Do you think such coincidences have deeper meaning? With all of the events which occur, is it not to be expected that certain unconnected events will coincide multiple times?


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Discussion Topics for a Book Club Reading My Unplublished Novel

1. Carntower Apartments, where much of the action of the novel takes place, is described as “a facade of ennui upon a foundation of misery, an eyesore on a block of eyesores, a derelict monstrosity lingering too long.” How are specific characters extensions of Carntower apartments? Is there a better word to use in the description than “monstrosity?”

2. The main character, Kurtis Standin, is a writer. What words of encouragement would you offer Kurtis?

3. The character Julius Tappenroe suddenly leaves the story in Chapter 5. If he were to return to the narrative, how and why would he return? Offer specific lines of dialogue, if possible.

4: The character of Harper Bantam is described as “callous and corrupt, a leech upon creativity. Were William Faulkner to ask him for an advance, Bantam would return Faulkner’s novel, unread.” How does the theme of an indifferent, uncaring universe affect you as a reader? (more…)

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Categories for The Meta Awards

I have another piece up on McSweeney’s: Categories for The Meta Awards.

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Answers to Dr. Brain Wizard’s Logic Puzzles

My piece Answers to Dr. Brain Wizard’s Logic Puzzles was just posted on McSweeney’ Feel free to read it, if you enjoy that sort of thing.

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State Congressman Donald Leopold Declines to Answer Your Questions

“Dear State Congressman Donald Leopold,
My neighbor and I are currently in the middle of a debate about a tree that grows in my yard. Some of the branches of the tree hang into his yard. They’re not hurting anything, but my neighbor just hates those branches, and wants me to cut them down. He says that since the tree is on my property, it’s my job to trim the branches and take care of all upkeep. I, however, think that since he is the one who doesn’t like the branches, and the branches are in his backyard, HE should be the one to cut them down. What do you think?”

I’m afraid I can’t answer that question at this time.

“Dear State Congressman Donald Leopold,
My name is Stacey. I am in the fourth grade. What is your favorite thing about being a politician?”

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on this subject at the current juncture.

“Dear State Congressman Donald Leopold,

My lawyer has advised me not to speak about this matter. Thank you.

“Dear State Congressman Donald Leopold,
I recently learned about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and how we can’t know stuff exactly, right? Is that true? If Einstein said that God doesn’t play dice, does that means it’s true? I mean, it’s Einstein. He’s super smart and everything, even though he did real bad in school when he was a kid, yeah? And he discovered gravity, well not gravity, I mean Newton discovered gravity, but Einstein discovered that gravity was curved, or something. And Stephen Hawking did something like that, but he’s in a wheelchair, right? He’s the wheelchair guy? So I guess my question is, is it okay to cheat on a physics test, if you’re real worried it’s going to totally screw your GPA?”

I’m sorry, I have no further time for questions.

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The Effects of Bill and Ted on the Consistency of our History Textbooks

Errata for World History: The Timeline of Our Globe and the People On It, by Prentice Hall, as necessitated due to the actions of Bill S. Preston, Esq., and Ted “Theodore” Logan.

p. 412 Genghis Khan’s death date (1227) should instead be listed as 1989.

p. 576 The Magna Carta now begins and ends with the word “Dude.”

p. 780 The picture of the Mona Lisa should now include a moustache and goatee.

p. 812 The picture of Marcel Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q. should no longer include a mustache or a goatee.

p. 864 Chapter 23: The Rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust does not require any revisions, which strikes this publishing company as both inexplicable and morally reprehensible.

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Welcome to My Spapartment

The ocean.

It heaves up and heaves down, torn fro and to by the power of the moon. Often, when the tide is out, some fish find themselves stranded in a tide pool, confined in an area smaller than that which they are accustomed to.

The economy is like the ocean.

You may find yourself like the ocean fish, once able to swim free, but now trapped in a tide pool, making awkward conversation with those you formerly ignored and/or crushed. To you, I say two things. First, do not worry. The tide will return. The tide always returns. Therefore, by the transitive property, the economy will also return. Second, make the best of the NOW. You can no longer afford the most spacious spas, but why not enjoy your time in the tide pool while you can?

Welcome to my apartment. And, welcome to my spa. Confused? Don’t be. They’re the same place. You’ll get all the amenities of a normal spa, but won’t have to pay the exorbitant prices that locations dedicated only to spa-ing charge.

Welcome to the world’s only Spapartment. (more…)

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