Escanaba’s Magic Hour: Movies, Robot Deer, and the American Small Town

An essay from Bissell’s book Magic Hours: A film crew and actor Jeff Daniels arrive in the author’s Michigan hometown to shoot a movie:

“As the sun sets behind the thick pine stand that perimeters the football field, the lack of extras begins to become a problem. To appreciate how crucial extras are to tonight’s filming, one must know several things about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. First, citizens of the Upper Peninsula are known as ‘Yoopers,’ an inelegant transliteration of ‘U. P.,’ as this underpopulated and fearsomely bleak stretch of land is known. The U. P. is separated from the rest of Michigan culturally and geographically, connected only by the Mackinac Bridge, an architectural marvel built as recently as 1957. The U. P. might be the most rural part of the country, as well as its least familiar. Some maps neglect to include the border separating the U. P. from Wisconsin, an accidental annexation that, if made official, would please the vast majority of Yoopers, who feel a stronger cultural identification with Wisconsin anyway. Finally—and in light of tonight’s scene, not to mention the whole film, this is a key point—for Yoopers, deer hunting has near religious significance. The first day of deer season is actually a school holiday—Deer Day, it is called—and the entire place is a hotbed of gun crazies and gun-craziness.”

Source: McSweeney’s
Published: Apr 12, 2012
Length: 34 minutes (8,653 words)

$50 Under 11.5 Rounds Floyd Mayweather, Jr. VS. Victor Ortiz

I’ve got history with this guy. I’ve been losing money on Floyd Mayweather, Jr. for years. I am a phenomenal sucker who bets against Floyd every chance I get. I’ve never once believed that he will lose a fight, and on that score this upcoming bout with Victor Ortiz is no different. But I always hope he will lose. My reasons why are embarrassing and have nothing to do with boxing, this sport that I consider myself a fan of.

Floyd is a villain, a contemptible person. He changed his nickname from “Pretty Boy Floyd” to “Money Mayweather” and he takes great pride in flaunting his wealth. He burns hundred dollar bills. He belittles his opponents as homosexuals even long after he has beaten them. In the run-up to all of his fights he goes to great lengths to play the bad guy, and that’s truly what it is—playing. He is a promoter and an entertainer and admits as much. But I fall for it anyway. Despite the fact that Money Mayweather is as skilled a tactician in the ring as anyone fighting today I still root for his defeat. A sucker play, sure, but in betting with my heart and not my head, I am at least in good company.

Author: David Hill
Source: McSweeney’s
Published: Oct 31, 2011
Length: 14 minutes (3,543 words)

$100 to Win on Miami Ghost in the 2nd at Saratoga.

Growing up in Hot Springs put horseracing in my blood. My grandparents landed there as carnies following the horserace circuit. My father grew up in the barns of the backstretch working as a groom and a hotwalker. He started taking me to the track as a child, teaching me to read the Daily Racing Form at the age of nine. Many years ago my father came to visit my wife and me in New York and he only wanted to go one place, to see the fabled Saratoga Race Course. We took him for Travers weekend, the highlight of the four-week race meet, and he was bowled over by the town and the track. “Why couldn’t Hot Springs do this,” he wondered. “This place is awesome. This is what Hot Springs should be like.”

Author: David Hill
Source: McSweeney’s
Published: Oct 12, 2011
Length: 8 minutes (2,104 words)

Phil Campbell? Phil Campbell. Welcome to Phil Campbell.

In 1995, Might Magazine published an essay by Phil Campbell about the first convention of people named Phil Campbell, which took place in Phil Campbell, Alabama. This past April the small town was hit by deadly tornadoes. Since then, people named Phil Campbell from around the world have come to Phil Campbell to help rebuild the town. Today we’re featuring Phil Campbell’s original article about the convention. If you’d like to contribute to the relief efforts for Phil Campbell, Alabama, please visit

Source: McSweeney’s
Published: Dec 1, 1995
Length: 15 minutes (3,820 words)

Could It Be That the Best Chance to Save a Young Family From Foreclosure is a 28-Year-Old Pakistani American Playright-slash-Attorney who Learned Bankruptcy Law on the Internet?

Wells Fargo, You Never Knew What Hit You.

Source: McSweeney’s
Published: Feb 24, 2010
Length: 26 minutes (6,573 words)

Gutenberg and How Typography Is Like Music

Typography has a visceral and direct effect on everybody who reads. It can inhibit or enhance the feel of reading without being consciously noticeable. It does so by combining specific visuals that echo cultural memories, which are hopefully servile to the words they spell. Not unlike your favorite food tasting better on fine china then on paper plates, the choice of typeface can radically impact meaning while hopefully going consciously unnoticed. Try to exhort that indefinable magic in words, and you may as well be doing that over-quoted dance about architecture.

Source: McSweeney’s
Published: Nov 6, 2009
Length: 6 minutes (1,590 words)

And Here’s the Kicker: Mike Sacks’s Conversations With Humor Writers.

Author: Mike Sacks
Source: McSweeney’s
Published: Aug 1, 2009
Length: 27 minutes (6,806 words)