The Best Email I Ever Got Ever / 12 July 1997

I’ve gotten a lot of emails (P.S. I’ve started writing “e-mail” sans hyphen these days because part of my job is writing emails all day and each time I do I have to say “Thanks for your email” and it saves countless hours to skip that hyphen although it bugs me because I don’t think it’s really how it should be written because it makes it look like it should be pronounced differently, like: “emm-aye-ill” or something) (I’m re-reading Infinite Jest to everyone’s dismay, so my grammar-and-usage anality is at an all-time high) in my day. Hell, who hasn’t? And they’ve really run the gamut from high comedy to low tragedy and vice versa. They’ve inspired all manner of gastrointestinal and psychosexual reactions. But I got one last night from a total stranger, and I have decreed it the Best Email I Ever Got Ever (or the BEIEGE, for short). Now, who knows, maybe I forgot about a great one from a few years back, and if you’re of the opinion that you sent me a better one, please let me know and I will eat crow (source of that expression, anyone?). Anyhow, for the time being, here’s the BEIEGE:

Date: Thu, 12 Jun 1997 19:56:47 -0500
From: Richard Astudillo
MIME-Version: 1.0
Subject: Fireland
X-Priority: 3 (Normal) You and your site are all that is the foundation of things that are good. If I spent more than the 20 minutes that I did browsing your site, I’d think you were God himself.

Wow. Good stuff. Some comments, from the top. Let’s look at this man’s name which seems to me to sing with inner meaning. Skipping the first name which has probably already caused him plenty of trouble in grammar school, his last name seems to be a combination of three factors:

  1. Astute
  2. A Stud
  3. Armadillo

All three are great things to be, individually, each on their own (for those naysayers: is there any cooler or weirder animal than an armadillo? Would you change your opinion if I told you the Fun Fact and/or Urban Legend that you can catch leprosy by touching their soft underbelly? You wouldn’t?), but to be all three at the same time? Extremely, extremely potent. Please note that I deleted Mr. Astudillo’s email address so he wouldn’t be swamped with nasty messages from jealous readers who coveted the BEIEGE award for themselves. And the X-Priority is Normal? Hardly!

Now, for the body of the message: Firstly, he equates me and my site, which is, appropriately enough, an astute statement. You see, Fireland is like when you have a baby but instead of the baby growing and maturing and learning and then going out to conquer the world on its own, it instead stays stunted and un-potty-trained and refuses to leave your side and soon enough it grafts right onto you and becomes this horrible and permanent growth on your hip. We are one and the same. Now to the curious part of the message: “…are all that is the foundation of things that are good.” Which means to say, as I interpret it, that Fireland is not necessarily Good in and of itself, but rather the Foundation for Good. For Good to be constructed it must have a ground to build upon and Fireland is that ground. Fireland is neither Good nor Evil, but rather the playing field for both. It preceded Good and Evil and will stick around and turn the lights off long after they leave. Which brings us to this “I’d think you were God himself” statement. That concept seems to fit perfectly with the idea of preceding Good and Evil, the idea that God created Good and Evil in order to entertain himself and pass the time. Am I saying that I am that Supreme Being? That the universe is merely a plaything, a bauble that I toss idly from hand to hand? Certainly not. But I am saying that Fireland, if browsed for 20 minutes, and not a second longer, could give that impression, and in fact it was carefully designed to do so. When I was first dreaming up this crazy little corner of the Web (feet dangling in a warm pool in central Cuba, a glass of vinegar, vodka, and Ocean Spray [tm] Cran-Cherry in one hand), I thought to myself: How long, really, honestly, will a person stay on the site and look around? Twenty minutes, tops. Like at the most. So I set up a demo version and had 1,000 beta testers look through it. Using then-prototype software from Sun Microsystems, I tracked the eyeball-movements and finger-twitchiness of the users and compiled that data to create a site that could guide the casual viewer into very specific pockets of text that, when put together hastily by a browsing mind, would come up with the irresistible conclusion that I could very well be “God himself” and then move on to, say, HotWired, or whatever. I’m really, really happy all this testing paid off, finally. Thank you, Richard, for being the first one to come forward and tell me and Sun Microsystems what we’ve wanted to hear for so long. We appreciate it. I appreciate it.

Joshua Green Allen

Fireland is a rickety old website by Joshua Allen.

A novel called Chokeville and a beverage-review site called The Knowledge For Thirst.

A great deal of typing is collected in the Archive.

Articles and whatnot for other sites, including The Morning News, Wired, and McSweeney's, can be found in External.

I've been involved in a number of Epiphany Sink pictures.

I record music under the name Orifex.

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The Sexiest Sentence Alive, Fireland Broke My Will To Live, The Black Pill Diaries, and a sampling of Old Fireland Designs.

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