back to the Black Table

 OK, here’s the deal. I’ve been at my new job for about three weeks now. Because you’ll need to know where I work to fully appreciate the following e-mails, I’ll just tell you: I’m the new editor of Brill’s Content’s All-Star Newspaper site. I basically read newspapers all day, pick the best stories and post them online. There are worse jobs, I’ll be honest.

On my very first day, I received an e-mail from a man named Daniel Hopkins (name changed). I hadn’t even had an opportunity to figure out where the bathroom was, and suddenly, I had an enemy most intense.

Facts you need to know before reading the rest of this piece:

1. I took over the job from a man named Jessie Roben (name also changed).

2. I received all of the following e-mails within one to two hours of updating the All-Star Newspaper site, typically at noon.

3. I have never met, or heard of, Mr. Hopkins before.

4. I’m fairly certain it’s an alias. Maybe a friend of Mr. Roben’s who’s upset that he’s gone, or someone I beat out for the job, or a friend of mine jerking me around. At least I hope so.

5. I swear all of these e-mails are real and reproduced verbatim.

6. I know this is a cheap way to do a column, but it’s funny, I swear. It’s worth it.

7. Hmmm ... I think that’s it. Enjoy.

27 February 2001

Dear Not-So-Good Will Leitch:

I thought I noticed a sudden dip in quality of the All-Star Newspaper. Sure enough, you’re name has been added where Jessie Roben’s was previously. Please resign now, and ask the estimable Mr. Roben to resume his former duties.

To remind: resign now.

Waiting for Roben,

- Daniel Hopkins

28 February 2001


It upset me terribly to see that you are still with us. More upsetting yet, your prose has gotten worse. Your article descriptions read like item descriptions from Were you born in a log cabin, Mr. Leitch?

Please clean out your desk and return the editorial reins to Jessie Roben.

1 March 2001


We’ll begin today with your overreliance on the colon. Please provide a compelling rationale/rationalization for your need to use one every third sentence. Also, why did you hyphenate “front line” in the pull to the Ian Fisher piece? “A pair,” as in the Levin bit, would properly take the third person singular. You misspelled “government” in the Pomfret lead, you melon-headed motherfucker. There’s also the issue of your questionable comma usage in your intro to Mr. Hiaasen’s piece of February 28.

It seems the only places you didn’t louse up punctuation and spelling were in where you directly plagiarized the opening sentences (Messrs. Carr and Wilonsky are obviously served by more competent copy editors).

I say nothing of the more substantive issue of your prose, which, as I believe I’ve mentioned twice this week, is awful.

Please resign your tenure as early as possible, making sure to apologize to Mr. Brill for your gross stupidity when collecting your severance.

- Daniel Hopkins

2 March 2001

Leitch, you sad tit:

Your site claims to be “updated weekdays at noon ET,” and it was when it was charged to the much-missed Jessie Roben. Seems to me you lack even the modest mental horsepower required to discharge an estimated 800 words of copy (this includes your direct plagiarism) by twelve. I was checking your site against the National Institute of Standards’ atomic clock to see if you’d actually make deadline. I gave up at 12:51. The claim of a noontime update is a plain mendacity that should be removed.

I have noted your verbatim reprinting of the opening lines of the stories you feature. This is something you should do more of. You get into trouble when you light out on your own, forgetting to hyphenate “stepping-stone,” and generally making an ass of yourself. For the sake of my now-queasy stomach, include fewer of your closed-fisted bangings on the keyboard.

That I’m brought to bear your most inelegant summaries is certainly proof positive against all theologies positing a benevolent and merciful god. Quit now, you illiterate a-hole.

- Daniel Hopkins

5 March 2001


Today’s was your worst outing yet. I am forced to conclude that you are plainly not up to the modest task at hand. The way your words clunk and wheeze across the screen suggests that you are hobbled by a serious mental impairment. If this is incurable, I will recommend to your editor that you be taken round back and shot. If something can be done, please activate your benefit package and seek help.

Reading you is evocative of great pity. Not a compassionate pity, as I felt when those iguanas were burned alive in a Fresno zoo some months back. No, this is a pity informed by contempt. You thick cunt, you not only misspelled “existence,” “shredding,” and “beleaguered,” but you managed to fuck Carl Hiaasen’s name up. You lummox. You stupid, stupid man.

Please return to whatever parking lot you formerly tended. Bring back Jessie.

- Daniel Hopkins

6 March 2001

Leitch, you turd:

The most difficult thing about telling you how painfully bad you are in the discharge of your duties is that I am effectively barred the use of superlatives. I could tell you on Monday that your latest update is without fail the worst few hundred words I’ve ever had to suffer through, but you would most likely succeed Monday’s low water-mark by week’s end.

I notice that although Rob Christensen and Joe Hallett are still on your “starting lineup,” you have not been running their articles of late. Thank god. Why you think your readership wants reports on the Charlotte Jaycees and the Columbus Chamber of Commerce is beyond me. Also in re your “starting lineup,” George Lazarus is dead. Subjoined is his obituary from the Tribune. It dates from September. My suspicion is that you were too stoned to have noted it at the time.

- Daniel Hopkins

8 March 2001

Mr. Leitch:

How long exactly did it take you to walk to Manhattan from Appalachia, and did you make the walk barefooted?

Your introduction to Mr. Hockstader’s piece is an improbably bad collection of words. Rusticity is admirable in Calabrian cuisine, Mr. Leitch, but not in print journalism. Please acclimate yourself to your new surroundings, you bumbling savage. Register for a primer on the English language as used outside the Ozarks; familiarize yourself with the mechanics of brushing ones teeth, as well as all the other toilet habits in common use in cities (I’d wager you are innocent of most); learn that anyone of any refinement whatever capitalizes “Scotch.” On this last point I am particularly sore, though it is fully understandable that one whose only experience with whiskey was helping uncle Jeb rebuild his illicit still should stumble so fearfully.

Why have you not yet resigned your post?

- Daniel Hopkins

9 March 2001

Mr. Leitch:

Were you nursed on lead paint, you numskull? Perhaps you could be so kind as to provide me with a translation of today’s update from the Ebonics. I will suspend future e-mails until I hear back from you on this point.

I’m sure a dozen people have already pointed it out, you douche bag, but allow me to be the thirteenth; you misspelled “partisan” in the intro to your headlining article. Shall I have Barnes & Noble messenger a dictionary to your office? Apparently you lack one.

- Daniel Hopkins

12 March 2001


In the interest of brevity, I simply note the following: the phantom forward slash introducing the Berke piece, your moronic misspelling of “anti-Semitic” in the Jorg Haider item, and your god-awful summary of the Shane Mosley story.

I have been archiving your daily collections of malaprops and misspellings. Upon reaching significant length, I will submit the mess to a Flesch-Kincaid analysis. I’d gauge you at a four.

- Daniel Hopkins

13 March 2001

I have applied the logic that postulates art as a function of its creators’ environment to your daily updates, Mr. Leitch. Here are my findings.

I have commented in the past upon your overreliance on the semicolon. Your need to meticulously segregate independent clauses indicates a development halted at the anal stage. Was I correct last week in speculating that you are from the hills of West Virginia? It must have been some place at least as stifling to a Refinement of the upperworks. Perhaps you were raised in a Romanian orphanage? A cave in the Cappadocian valley? An old storage shed on a derelict Port Arthur, Texas, industrial site?

The editorial offices of Brill’s Content don’t seem to be treating you much better. Your harried style and haggard output sound as if you’re typing under fire.

Did you model your prose on some old anthology of combat reportage? Do you do the updates from Brazzaville or Pristina? Does Steve Brill stand behind your desk poking and prodding you with a sharpened mop handle whenever your pace slackens?

What exactly is your deal, Leitch? Is it that your current surroundings are overly accommodating - so comfortable as to encourage the journalistic indolence of which you are a hundred times guilty? Do you sit in an easy chair and enjoy the service of a corps of comely interns? Or is it plain drunkenness? Is there a cistern of low-grade malt liquor adjacent to your desk from which you drink ad libitum?

Coming up with the decisive explanation for your stupidity is a task at least as daunting as attempting to come up with the decisive reason for human suffering (which your writings, of course, contribute to in large measure).

- Daniel Hopkins

14 March 2001

The unfailing poverty of your writing is one of the few fixities in this world, Mr. Leitch. The All-Star Newspaper has, under your tenure, become the Polaris around which all other hackneyed expressions and plagiarisms are arrayed.

Nice to see that you have outfitted your computer with a spell check.

- Daniel Hopkins

15 March 2001

Scavenger! From what journalistic compost/scrap heap did you reclaim “split the difference”? Awful. Awful. Awful. Really bad stuff today, Mr. Leitch.

Misspelling of the day: “Missle.” Perhaps I shouldn’t have cancelled shipment on that Oxford English Dictionary.

- Daniel Hopkins

16 March 2001

Mr. Leitch:

I have just made a most amazing discovery! Far more amazing, even, than Viagra or the Laffer Curve. Earlier in the day, I wanted to see if the Brill’s Content Web site housed any of your longer pieces. I entered both your name and the magazine’s into Google, and was returned a link to Ironminds, a site you apparently edit. (What an awful looking site, Mr. Leitch. Does the Web development team work on Commodore Vic 20s? Please change the vacuum tubes, servos, and relays on the Sperry Univac hosting that terrible site.) The writing is of a familiarly poor quality, but I’m digressing.

The first item returned was by a gentleman named Andy Wang. Not to be prejudicial, but given the man’s surname and the dreadfulness of his writing, I suspect this Mr. Wang to be an alumnus of a sorely underfunded ESL program in Elmhurst, Queens. Anyway, it’s not the clumsiness of this schmuck’s writing that interests me, but the topic of his piece: misspellings on the Brill’s Content Web site!

You, Mr. Leitch, are a supreme ironist. You provide Mr. Wang with an easy half-dozen targets daily at which to aim his limp jabs (I’m reminded of Lamar’s javelin in Revenge of the Nerds). And what editorial frugality! Your bumblings at Brill’s, combined with Mr. Wang’s patently unfunny digs at your new employer, constitute something of a perpetual motion machine. If only Gore Vidal could get a job at the New York Times writing nasty pseudonymous reviews of Gore Vidal books! You are far sharper than I initially thought.

P.S. Do like smoking grass, and heavy metal music?

19 March 2001

Mr. Leitch:

I believe I have located the Brill’s Content job posting to which you replied - you certainly measure favorably against all the criteria given. I have added a snapshot of the listing to my homepage.

- Daniel Hopkins



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