Copyright 1999 The Cincinnati Post, an E.W. Scripps newspaper.
HTML reformatting by Scott Pakin.

Newspaper article about my complaint-letter generator

The following article, written by Stan Sulkes, appeared in the Connections column in The Cincinnati Post (Cincinnati, OH) on July 20, 1999. Just call me Captain Famous! However, I would like to be more famous, so if you've written anything that puts me in a good light, just send me a copy and I'll put it online.

Let computer write pesky love, hate notes

Writing a weekly column entails some sacrifice. Over the past three years, I've lost touch with my friends and enemies - even neglected my job. Fortunately, I've discovered some Web sites that will help me attend to the pesky, time-consuming activities I've so long neglected.

Let me start with the Automatic Complaint-Letter Generator, which fires off whole paragraphs of invective to anyone you wish. It requires nothing more of the writer than the name and sex of the recipient. Since the letter is assembled randomly, you are assured of original insults each time. Here's a sample of a computer-generated letter:

There are people I truly despise. They lack morals, character and honesty. They fund a vast web of patronizing out-of-touch clods, crazy wackos, and abusive authoritarians. In case you can't tell, I'm talking about Louis Beaner here.

The letter ends majestically:

May we never forget this, if we are to deny Mr. Louis Beaner and his toadies a chance to grant recalcitrant sociopaths the keys to the kingdom.

This program was written by Scott Pakin, a grad student in computer science. He was inspired to write this program as an undergraduate after reading the pointless ramblings that appeared in the Carnegie-Mellon student newspaper. "I bet a computer could write letters that make as much sense as this," he recalls thinking. His program is based on a context-free grammar computer application, which pieces words and phrases together, arranging them by the rules of English syntax.

The context free grammar application is also the agent driving Andrew Bulhak's Postmodernism Generator. Students and scholars, take note: Should you need a scholarly publication to flesh out your vita, you can acquire one on postmodernism complete with footnotes. Bulhak's Web site produces high-sounding gibberish that is eerily like the real thing.

And finally, the computer can even punch up your love life. At Cyrano, you can obtain both love letters and break-up letters -- all generated by computer. Believe me, staying in touch was never easier.