Friday, 29 January 2010

I felt the risk of being overwhelmed by Giger



Considering the hugely positive reaction to his incredible, Oscar-winning work on the film's predecessor, it's little wonder that H. R. Giger was "disappointed" not to be contacted when production began on Aliens, the second installment in what is one of the most successful movie franchises in cinema's history. Indeed, Giger, the celebrated Swiss artist who famously designed the beautifully horrific Alien itself in the late 1970s, vocalised his displeasure and, via his agent, Leslie Barany, even wrote to the sequel's director, James Cameron. Three months later, Cameron explained his decision by way of the fascinating and remarkably honest letter seen below.

Transcript follows.

(Huge thanks to James Cameron and H. R. Giger for kindly allowing this letter to be featured both on the website and in the Letters of Note book.)



Transcript
AMERICAN GOTHIC PRODUCTIONS, INC.

February 13, 1987

Mr. Leslie Barany
[redacted]
New York, New York

Dear Mr. Barany:

I regret that the intense pressure to complete "ALIENS" did not afford me the time to reply to your letter of 3/11/86, which was on behalf of your client, Mr. H.R. Giger.

In that letter you describe Mr. Giger's 'initial sense of disappointment' at not being contacted for "ALIENS" in view of his, quite correct, intense sense of authorship of the creatures and designs. Ironically, it was the production design of "ALIEN", with its bizarre, psycho-sexual landscape of the subconscious as created by Mr. Giger, that initially attracted me to the project of a sequel. However, having been a production designer myself before becoming a director, I felt I had to put my own unique stamp on the project. Otherwise, it would have had little meaning for me a that point in my career, when I had a number of original concepts and creations which I could have pursued, with equal financial reward and an even greater degree of authorship.

I found that creating a sequel can be an uneasy exercise in balancing creative impulses, the desire to create a whole new canvas, with the need to pay proper hommage to the original. Mr. Giger's visual stamp was so powerful and pervasive in "ALIEN" (a major contributor to its success, I believe) that I felt the risk of being overwhelmed by him and his world, if we had brought him into a production where in a sense, he had more reason to be there than I did.

Because 20th Century Fox liked the story I presented to them, they gave me the opportunity to create the world I had seen in my mind as I wrote. I took that opportunity, and enlisted the aid of special effects designers, sculptors and technicians with whom I had worked before which, of course, is a natural course when one must guarantee a schedule and budget.

An additional deciding factor was Mr. Giger's conflicting involvement in "POLTERGEIST II" which unfortunately did not utilize his vision nearly as well as "ALIEN".

I offer all this commentary by way of apology and explanation in the hope that Mr. Giger can find it possible to forgive me for abducting his 'first-born'. If so, there may come a time when we can collaborate in mutual respect on some completely new and original project where the only limitation is his superb imagination.

I am, first and always, a fan of his work (a signed litho of the alien egg commissioned during "ALIEN" is one of my prized possessions).

Sincerely,

(Signed)

JAMES F. CAMERON

JC:lw

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Life on the battlefield is different from the movie version

Writing letters of admiration to Hollywood pin-ups was a regular pastime for many soldiers during World War II, and the gracious responses and photos they received went some way to boosting troops' morale at such uncertain times. In 1943, Lieutenant Norman Klinker wrote such a letter to Hollywood actress Donna Reed (It's a Wonderful Life, From Here to Eternity) and she responded. Naturally he wrote again, and below is that letter. Sadly, Klinker didn't see Reed's next 'pic', as he was killed in action on January 6th, 1944, whilst fighting in the Winter Line campaign.

Following her death in 1986, it came to light - following a discovery by her daughter - that Reed had in fact kept hundreds of similar letters from soldiers. Learn more here

Transcript follows.



Transcript
LT. N.P. KLINKER
91ST ARMO. F.A. BN.
APO 251, ℅ PM, NYC
April 12th, I think

MISS DONNA REED
2304 S. BEVERLY GLEN
LOS ANGELES
CALIFORNIA

Dear Donna,

Have just received your letter from the eight of December. And believe me or no, it was the first piece of mail I have received in the past two months. By the sound of your tale, life in the old U.S. is not quite as fine as it used to be. But I honestly feel that it is better than eating the same 3 meals out of the same 3 C-Ration cans for a month or three.

We have been in action for some time here in North Africa, you see. Quite an interesting and a heartless life at one and the same time. One thing I promise you - life on the battlefield is a wee bit different from the "movie" version. Tough and bloody and dirty as it is at times. There is none of that grim and worried feeling so rampant in war pictures. It's a matter-of-fact life we live and talk here. And here for the first time no one has the "jitters."

I hear you have done your part and done got married. Congratulations and good luck! See you in your next "pic."

Sincerely,

Norman Klinker

P.S. Can hardly wait for four years tho - no "pics" here.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Ordinary standards do not apply to Tesla

On January 4th, 1943, Slovenian-American author Louis Adamic wrote the following heartfelt letter to ex-President of the United States, Herbert Hoover. The letter concerned the alarming treatment and general well-being of Adamic's friend, Nikola Tesla; an immeasurably important inventor whose impact on the modern world is still difficult to appreciate and who, despite his numerous groundbreaking scientific achievements, was at the time of writing severely in debt and in worryingly ill-health.

Hoover immediately forwarded the letter to the IEEE, but to no avail; just three days after it was written, Tesla passed away in the hotel room in which he had lived for the past ten years.

Transcript follows.



Transcript
LOUIS ADAMIC . MILFORD . NEW JERSEY

January 4, 1943

Dear Mr. Hoover:

Nikola Tesla, as you know, is a Serbian immigrant who came to America from Croatia some 60 years ago and became one of the world's greatest inventors. He became also an American. In the early 1920s Lenin urged him to move to the Soviet Union, promising him every scientific facility, and personal security for life, but Tesla declined -- he was an American and had got used to living in the United States, whose civilization he helped to create.

His contribution to the sum-total of American civilization is almost beyond calculation. Hundreds of billions of dollars of American wealth are ascribable to his inventions. They are at the very center of our current war effort. No man living has added more substantially to the potentialities of human life than Tesla.

Yet today, when he is past 90, he is worse than penniless. He is extremely frail, weighing less than 90 pounds. His health is poor, and he has grown somewhat bitter against the U.S.A. No doubt his current poverty is his own fault. However, I think that ordinary standards do not apply to Tesla. He was always the pure scientist, never interested in money, always impractical about material existence.

But the fact is that now he is up against it. He receives a small "pension" from the Yugoslav government-in-exile. I know that Tesla suffers greatly at having to accept this pension from the government of his native country, to which he had never contributed anything directly. He suffers especially because the money comes to him through the Yugoslav Ambassador in Washington, whom he dislikes personally. Tesla suffers, too, in fact to the point of bitterness, because he feels -- with some justice -- that everyone in America, including the beneficiaries of fortunes created by his inventions, has forgotten him. No one writes to him; no one comes to see him.

He lives in a meager room in the New Yorker Hotel, in New York. He owes about a year's rent -- the Yugoslav pension is not enough to keep him in scientific apparatus, etc., for he continues to work on his projects.

This letter is not an appeal for your personal financial help. Some way will be found of looking out for him -- he will probably not outlive 1943. But he needs someone to take care of him personally without seeming to; someone who could also follow his current notes and experiments and preserve what may be of value in them. Perhaps one of the large electrical corporations which have benefitted so greatly through his inventions would be glad to pension him for the short balance of his life. And I am wondering if you know someone who might be approached.

A pension coming from such a source would relieve Tesla of the necessity of accepting more money from the Yugoslav government. It would do much to remove his bitter feeling of neglect. And it would be fitting, though small, recognition of the debt America owes this man who has done so much for his country.

If you would like more details, I can come to see you in New York at any time.

Sincerely,

Louis Adamic

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

An idiot of the 33rd degree



In November of 1905, an enraged Mark Twain sent the following superb letter to J. H. Todd, a salesman who had just attempted to sell bogus medicine to the author by way of a letter and leaflet delivered to his home. According to the literature Twain received, the "medicine" in question — called "The Elixir of Life" — could cure such ailments as meningitis (which had previously killed Twain's daughter in 1896) and diphtheria (which killed his 19-month-old son). Twain, himself of ill-health at the time and very recently widowed after his wife suffered heart failure, was understandably furious and dictated this reply to his secretary, which he then signed.  

Transcript follows. Letter taken from the Letters of Note book, which you can read about here.





Transcript
Nov. 20. 1905

J. H. Todd 
1212 Webster St.
San Francisco, Cal.

Dear Sir,

Your letter is an insoluble puzzle to me. The handwriting is good and exhibits considerable character, and there are even traces of intelligence in what you say, yet the letter and the accompanying advertisements profess to be the work of the same hand. The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link. It puzzles me to make out how the same hand could have constructed your letter and your advertisements. Puzzles fret me, puzzles annoy me, puzzles exasperate me; and always, for a moment, they arouse in me an unkind state of mind toward the person who has puzzled me. A few moments from now my resentment will have faded and passed and I shall probably even be praying for you; but while there is yet time I hasten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poison by mistake, and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve.

Adieu, adieu, adieu!

Mark Twain

Monday, 25 January 2010

You're boring



Studio head Harvey Weinstein sent this fantastically blunt letter to Errol Morris in 1988, following the director's recent promotional interview for The Thin Blue Line. Morris's documentary eventually went on to win multiple awards and much acclaim, and the subsequent exoneration of the movie's "star" earned Miramax — Weinstein's company — invaluable publicity, but at the time it seems the producer was less than pleased with Morris's efforts when it came to selling the concept to audiences.

A truly entertaining letter to read, but no doubt an infuriating one to receive.

UPDATE: The "boring" interview in question has now been dug up by the folks at NPR. Listen here.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Errol Morris; Images: Harvey Weinstein & Errol Morris, via here & here.)


Transcript
MIRAMAX FILMS

August 23, 1988

Errol Morris
c/o The Mondrian Hotel
8440 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA

Dear Errol:

Heard your NPR interview and you were boring. You couldn't have dragged me to see THE THIN BLUE LINE if my life depended on it.

It's time you start being a performer and understand the media.

Let's rehearse:

Q: What is this movie about?

A: It's a mystery that traces an injustice. It's scarier than NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET. It's like a trip to the Twilight Zone. People have compared it to IN COLD BLOOD with humor.

Speak in short one sentence answers and don't go on with all the legalese. Talk about the movie as a movie and the effect it will have on the audience from an emotional point of view.

If you continue to be boring, I will hire an actor in New York to pretend that he's Errol Morris. If you have any casting suggestions, I'd appreciate that.

Keep it short and keep selling it because that's what's going to work for you, your career and the film.

Congratulations on all your good reviews. Let's make sure the movie is as successful.

Best Regards,

(Signed)

Harvey Weinstein

Friday, 22 January 2010

My life couldn't fill a penny postcard

In response to a request for 'biographical information' by Harper's Magazine's managing editor Russell Lynes, 21-year-old Andy Warhol wrote the following self-deprecating note. It was 1949, Warhol had recently moved to New York following his graduation at Carnegie Tech, and he was already starting to impress as a commercial artist having just illustrated Vega, a short story by John Cheever which was to be featured in Harper's itself.

Little did he or Lynes know, but his life story would soon fill many a book.

Transcript follows.



Transcript

Hello mr lynes
thank you very much

biographical information

my life couldn't fill a penny postcard
i was born in pittsburgh in 1928 (like everyone else - in a steel mill)
i graduated from Carnegie Tech
now i'm in NY city moving from one roach infested apartment to another.

andy warhol

Thursday, 21 January 2010

"BUT HE NEVER CALLS ME!"

In November of 1993, as the media feasted on the first child sex abuse allegation to be made against Michael Jackson, Oscar-winning actor Maximilian Schell sent the following letter to the Hollywood Reporter and paid for it to be printed on the back page of every copy of the publication. Obviously there was a lot to take in when the allegations began, and as such I'm struggling to remember seeing this letter or any mention of it either at the time or at any point since. Regardless, it definitely deserves mention, if not for the haphazard uppercase deployment then for either the letter's hand-drawn rose or Schell's amusing tone.

Transcript follows. Many thanks to Robert Schnakenberg.



Transcript
MAXIMILIAN SCHELL

NOV, 19
1993

TO: MICHAEL JACKSON
(SOMEWHERE ON THIS PLANET)

DEAR MICHAEL,

I AM DEEPLY ASHAMED -- FOR THE PRESS, FOR THE MEDIA, FOR THE WORLD - I don't know you - we met only ONCE on one of those Award-Dinners ("ENTERTAINER of the DECADE") - We shook hands - you were kind and polite - I don't think you knew who I was - HOW SHOULD YOU? OUR WORLDS ARE TOO FAR APART - (I am more, "CLASSICAL" - minded -) but I looked into your eyes -- THEY WERE KIND --

You are a great artist and I admire you - my little daughter (she is 9½) LOVES YOU! DEEPLY - SHE EVEN WANTS TO MARRY YOU! (-"BUT HE NEVER CALLS ME!") SHE IMITATES YOU ALL THE TIME - and quite well -

WE ALL LOVE YOU

I would like her more to listen to MOZART - but she loves YOU! AND I RESPECT HER TASTE! --

THAT YOU SURVIVE THIS AVALANCHE OF DIRT THROWN AT YOU - I ADMIRE TREMENDOUSLY -

THANK YOU FOR WHAT YOU ARE!

GOD BLESS YOU

Maximilian Schell

P.S. "ONE CAN ONLY SEE GOOD WITH THE HEART - THE ESSENTIAL IS INVISIBLE FOR THE EYES” - ("THE LITTLE PRINCE")

I painted you a letter

Russian-born artist Moses Soyer wrote a number of letters to his teenage sons; nearly all replete with fantastic illustrations as charming as those seen below. This particular work of art was sent to David in the late 1930s while he attended summer camp miles from home, and must've been a perfect remedy for homesickness. Similar letters from Soyer can be seen at the Smithsonian Institution's truly incredible Archives of American Art.

See also: This is me.

Transcript follows.


Transcript

Monday

Dear David,

That was a swell letter you wrote us. The illustrations were swell too. I guess that by the time you receive this letter you will have gone swimming. It's getting very warm in the city.

There's not much that's new except the war. I can see by the papers that Dizzy Dean will try a pitching comeback. The Cincinatti Reds are in the lead so far. Tinkerbelle is still growing and so is Jester.

Are you getting your injections?

Puzzle Picture - Where is Jester

Love from Ida and Me.
Regards from Nat and Emma.

P.s. Am sending you the glove today.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Superman looks worse in each picture

At some point in the early 1940s, the following letter of complaint was written - along with numerous others during that period - by DC Comics editor Whitney Ellsworth and sent to Jerry Siegel, the man responsible for co-creating Superman and then signing away the character to DC for pittance. This particular day, Ellsworth was clearly unhappy with what he believed to be sloppy workmanship on Siegel and Shuster's part and so, for the umpteenth time that year, fed some Superman Inc. letterhead into his typewriter and proceeded to pick more holes in their work.

Previously noted Superman letters can be found here and here.

Transcript follows.



Transcript

SUPERMAN INC.

480 LEXINGTON AVE.
NEW YORK, N.Y.

Saturday, Feb. 21

Dear Jerry:-

A set of dailies arrived this morning. If there were sufficient time, I'd certainly return them to you for more work; as it is, I shall simply have to have one of the artists here try to do some work on them before we send them to the syndicate. I'm particularly upset, because I wrote you about the same troubles after receiving the last set. It seems impossible that you look them over before sending them out; either that, or you are very complacent about the guy you invented. SUPERMAN looks like a different person in almost every picture, and worse in each. Even if such details as bad hands, bad figures and bad action are passed over lightly, we just can't get away from the fact that SUPERMAN's face is incredibly bad in more than fifty percent of its renditions. I have written you repeatedly about the manner in which his jock strap is drawn, and absolutely nothing is ever done about it. I have no complaint about the backgrounds, which are very well handled, but perhaps more attention is paid to backgrounds than to the figure work. All in all, the sad truth is that after all these years, SUPERMAN is not outstandingly well drawn either in the magazines or in the syndicate stuff. Very discouraging it is, too. And it is getting to the point where I feel that if at least the syndicate material doesn't show a marked improvement, we shall have to consider it "unacceptable", and make other arrangements to have it done.

Incidentally, I note too that some of the editorial changes in the dailies are not being made.

Altogether, the situation is serious enough to warrant your doing some real worrying.

(Signed, 'Whit')

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

How many lives are you willing to sacrifice?

August 2nd, 1990: Tensions originating from the Iran-Iraq War spill over and Iraqi troops invade Kuwait. Within days they take control of the country and its oil fields.

August 7th, 1990: Sensing the potential for a similar invasion of oil-rich Saudi Arabia, U.S. troops gather in the Kingdom in order to defend the area. Operation Desert Shield is officially underway.

November 29th, 1990: Iraq is issued with a deadline of January 15th, 1991 by the U.N.. Should they still occupy Kuwait at that time, Iraq will face military action.

December 31st, 1990: President Bush writes the following letter to his children. In it, he shares his thoughts in relation to the impending war and attempts to justify his decisions.

January 15th, 1991: The deadline is ignored by Iraq and two days later allied forces begin to attack both Kuwait and Iraq as Operation Desert Storm begins. The Gulf War continues until February 28th.

Transcript follows.





Transcript

Dec. 31, 1990

Dear George, Jeb, Neil, Marvin, Doro,

I am writing this letter on the last day of 1991./

First, I can't begin to tell you how great it was to have you here at Camp David. I loved the games (the Marines are still smarting over their 1 and 2 record), I loved Christmas Day, marred only by the absence of Sam and Ellie. I loved the movies- some of 'em- I loved the laughs. Most of all, I loved seeing you together. We are a family blessed; and this Christmas simply reinforced all that.

I hope I didn't seem moody. I tried not to.

When I came into this job I vowed that I would never ring my hands and talk about "the loneliest job in the world" or ring my hands about the "pressures or the trials".

Having said that I have been concerned about what lies ahead. There is no 'loneliness' though, because I am backed by a first rate team of knowledgeable and committed people. No president has been more blessed in this regard..

I have thought long and hard about what might have to be done. As I write this letter at Year's end, there is still some hope that Iraq's dictator will pull out of Kuwait. I vary on this. Sometimes I think he might, at others I think he simply is too unrealistic- too ignorant of what he might face. I have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that we have tried hard for peace. We have gone to the uN; we have formed an historic coalition; there have been diplomatic initiatives from country after country.

And so here we are a scant 16 days from a very important date- the date set by the uN for his total compliance with all UN resolutions including getting out of Kuwait- totally.

I guess what I want you to know as a father is this: Every human life is precious. When the question is asked "How many lives are you willing to sacrifice?"- it tears at my heart. The answer, of course, is none- none at all. We have waited to give sanctions a chance, we have moved a tremendous force so as to reduce the risk to every American soldier if force has to be used; but the question of loss of life still lingers and plagues the heart.

My mind goes back to history:

How many lives might have been saved if appeasement had given way to force earlier on in the late '30's or earliest '40's? How many Jews might have been sapred the gas chambers, or how many Polish patriots might be alive today? I look at today's crisis as "good" vs. "evil".... yes, it is that clear.

I know my stance must cause you a little grief from time to time; and this hurts me; but here at 'years-end' I just wanted you to know that I feel:

- every human life is precious.. the little Iraqi kids' too.

- Principle must be adhered to- Saddam cannot profit in any way at all from his aggression and from his brutalizing the people of Kuwait.

- and sometimes in life you have to act as you think best - you can't compromise, you can't give in....even if your critics are loud and numerous.

So, dear kids- batten down the hatches.

Senator Inouye of HAwaii told me: "Mr. President, do what you have to do. If it is quick and successful everyone can take the credit. If it is drawn out, then be prepared for some in Congress to file impeachment papers against you"... that's what he said, and he's 100% correct.

ANd so I shall say a few more prayers, mainly for our kids in the Gulf, and I shall do what must be done, and I shall be strengthened every day by our family love which lifts me up every single day of my life.

I am the luckiest dad in the whole wide world-

I love you, Happy New Year and May God Bless every one of you and all in your family.

Devotedly,

Dad

I will include your name in my present work

Celebrated science fiction author Jack Vance has written over 60 novels during his career, accumulated numerous prestigious awards for his work, and in 1997 was named a Grand Master by the SFWA. However it's good to know that such acclaim hasn't affected his good nature, as can be seen in this reply to a piece of fan-mail in 1999; specifically point number five. Indeed, Vance kept to his word and in 2004 when his new novel - Lurulu - was eventually released, a delighted Hans van der Veeke found his name inside:
An omnibus conveyed the four men along a scenic boulevard to the central plaza: an immaculate area, paved with slabs of polished granite. At the center, fountains played around the base of a heroic statue celebrating the legendary locator Hans van der Veeke who had first set foot upon the world Archimbal. He was depicted wearing a black frock coat and a flat black hat. His pose was portentous, with one great arm raised on high, saluting generations of the future.
Transcript follows.



Transcript
Jack Vance
[Redacted]

April 16, 1999

Dear Hans van der Veeke —

Thanks very much for your letter.

1. Regarding my eyesight. I use a large font on my computer but it doesn't help much. I rely more on my voice synthesizer box.

2. I use Holland occasionally, when mentioning Old Earth, because I'm familiar with it.

3. I had to give up the mystery genre because the books were not making any money; Science Fiction did better.

4. My health is improved, but I'm not currently planning any visits to Holland. Thanks for your offer to show me around the north.

5. I will include your name in my present work.

Sincerely, Jack Vance

(Signed)

(Written by my wife, Norma)

Monday, 18 January 2010

I am Adam and I'm alone again with all my ribs intact

The following letter, written by Jack Kerouac in 1962 following an apparent escape from New York's many temptations, is predictably fascinating and equally saddening. Over the course of just three pages addressed to Jacques Beckwith, Kerouac manages to touch on his general ill-health, his many troubled relationships with women (most notably then-girlfriend Lois Sorrell), the ever-worsening drinking problem which would ultimately kill him, and the daughter he still refused to believe was his own.

For those wondering, the drinking companions mentioned by Kerouac are Lucien Carr, Gregory Corso and Hugo Weber.

Transcript follows.







Transcript
Dear Jaques —

I didn't leave "unceremoniously," I was in Hicksville L.I. near Idlewild Airport (at my lawyer's house) and took the first plane I could get because also I was coughing and choking on my coughing like a T.B.— And sure enough, in a week, the Florida sunshine and sleep got rid of the cough — Didn't you hear me cough in N.Y.? (mostly from sleeplessness for 7 days and nights, thus more smoking and nerves) (and bronchitis had set in) — I was really afraid of winding up in a N.Y. hospital —

And to come back to Manhattan from L.I. and start drinking with Lucien or Gregory again would have done it — and with poor Hugo —

Of course I'm not mad at you, Jacques my buddy — Mad at Lois, yes, but for no good reason because she's always had other guys anyway — But she's gotten mean for the first time, mean to me I mean, since that idiot psychoanalytical warlock's got hold of her — But I'm not even mad at Lois because every time I had a chance to make love to her I deliberately got drunker anyway because I really don't believe in Sangsara anymore just like I was when she first met me and she begged me to make love to her and I would not for months — Sangsara is the work of Mara the Tempter and I'm not going to be tempted so easily any more — I'm a priest at heart even tho such a wiseguy loudmouth "wit" when I feel "good" on booze — I'm not "tough," just a soft hearted Imbecile — And Lois and Janet and all those other girls actually scare me down deep (Dodie didn't scare me half as much!) — They scare me because of their slinky beauty like snake-beauty....what do they want? Out of me? If they won't give me a piece of ass because I'm a rowdy inattentive monk drunk, then why do they want to see me? They scare me like the Devil — Their intentions are not honorable. — They also realize I don't like women and never did — I only like their bodies for sex — I think women are evil the way they coolly manage men with big ungovernable hurting hard-ons — Let the devil take his Eve back — I am Adam and I'm alone again with all my ribs intact

As for N.Y., you saw what happened — If I cant even keep a cheap hotel room to read in and sleep in and meditate in....what can I do in N.Y. but be a drunken mess? It's a shame you've never known me when I'm sober, in the woods, and don't say much — You will someday —

I'm back at my writing work again now, on this cool halfmoon night — I sit by my new little cumquat tree and wait for my mind to organize another drama for the necessary exercise of my poetic narrative — Like Handel I sometimes fall on my knees and pray for work —

Right now I'm just waiting — typing up old poems and haikus and prose pieces and putting them together in different bound volumes — And pretty soon I'm going to study the history of Europe in detail — I meanwhile dabble at the New Testament, Thoreau's "Week on Concord and Merrimack," Psalms of David, George Herbert's holy poetry, Haiku of Japan:-

Spring rain
Conveyed under the trees
In drops
— BASHŌ

Harusame no / Koshita ni tsutau / shizuku kana

ETC.

By the way Jacques, why don't you throw those 3 books in an envelope (Morley and Singer) and send 'em to me — ordinary mail, 25¢ or so —

I'm paying $52 a month for the girl they say is my daughter — I still know she's no Kerouac but the law insists and besides I can afford it now — But I will have nothing to do with her or her mother or her mother's lovers — (The Judge told me the N.Y. Supreme court allows no illegitimacy, and the blood test doctor works for the Supreme Court, is appointed by the Supreme Court, so there are no bastards in N.Y. State period) —

I wanted to see Lucien and Cessa again but tell them how sick I was —

Enclosed is a letter for Dear Hugo (GIVE IT TO HIM OR MAIL IT ON)

À plus tard

Jean
COPAIN

Friday, 15 January 2010

Hang on, my love, and grow big and strong



It took nine months for Iggy Pop to reply to then-21-year-old Laurence's fan letter, but really the timing couldn't have been more perfect as on the morning his thoughtful note did arrive at her home in Paris, Laurence's family were being evicted by bailiffs. Laurence recalls that moment back in 1995:
"By the time I finished I was in tears. Not only had Iggy Pop received the letter I had sent him nine months before, and I could have missed his if he'd sent it a day later, but he had read the whole 'fucking' 20 pages, including the bit about my Adidas dress (a semi-innocent allusion on my part), and all the rest, my description of being the child of an acrimonious divorce with the string of social workers, lawyers, greedy estate agents and bailiffs at the door, the fear, the anger, the frustration, the love."
Iggy's handwritten response addressed Laurence's problems with both grace and eloquence, and really can't be praised enough.

Transcript follows. Many thanks to both Laurence and Iggy.

(This letter, along with 124 other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in the bestselling book, Letters of Note.)





Transcript
dear laurence,

thankyou for your gorgeous and charming letter, you brighten up my dim life. i read the whole fucking thing, dear. of course, i'd love to see you in your black dress and your white socks too. but most of all i want to see you take a deep breath and do whatever you must to survive and find something to be that you can love. you're obviously a bright fucking chick, w/ a big heart too and i want to wish you a (belated) HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY 21st b'day and happy spirit. i was very miserable and fighting hard on my 21st b'day, too. people booed me on the stage, and i was staying in someone else's house and i was scared. it's been a long road since then, but pressure never ends in this life. 'perforation problems' by the way means to me also the holes that will always exist in any story we try to make of our lives. so hang on, my love, and grow big and strong and take your hits and keep going.

all my love to a really beautiful girl. that's you laurence.

iggy pop

Thursday, 14 January 2010

I feel disposable, used and insignificant

It's an unfortunate fact of life that extramarital affairs are an extremely common occurrence, and as such letters similar to the one below — in which a recently jilted lover begs a cheating husband for further secret contact — are nothing special, and certainly not unique. However this particular letter, written five weeks after the husband called off their affair, is certainly of note as a result of the following details: 1. Its "handsome" recipient was Bill Clinton; and 2. Its disgruntled sender, "M," was in fact Monica Lewinsky.

More documents relating to the Clinton-Lewinsky affair can be found here.

Transcript follows.



Transcript
29 June 1997

Dear Handsome,

I really need to discuss my situation with you. We have not had any contact for over five weeks. You leave on Sat. and I leave for Madrid with the SecDef on Monday returning the 14th of July. I am then heading out to Los Angeles for a few days. If I do not speak to you before I leave, when I return it will have been two months since we last spoke. Please do not do this. I feel disposable, used and insignificant. I understand your hands are tied but I want to talk to you and look at some options. I am begging you one last time to please let me visit briefly Tuesday evening. I will call Betty Tuesday afternoon to see if it is o.k.

- M

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Please Miss Hindley help me

In 1964, 22 years prior to her writing the following letter, Winnie Johnson's 12 year old son went missing as he walked the short distance to his grandmother's house in Manchester, England. Johnson's worst fears were confirmed in 1985 - 21 years later - when 'Moors Murderer' Ian Brady confessed to a journalist that he had actually abducted and killed Keith all those years ago, along with four other victims. In November of 1986 a desperate Winnie Johnson wrote to Myra Hindley, Brady's imprisoned accomplice, and pleaded for an official confession. A few months later Hindley supplied just that to police, with Brady following suit shortly afterwards.

Keith's body has never been found.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the Telegraph.




Image: Telegraph

Transcript
Dear Miss Hindley,

I am sure I am one of the last people you would ever expected to receive a letter from. I am the mother of Keith Bennett who went missing, no-one knows where, on June 16, 1964. As a woman I am sure you can envisage the nightmare I have lived with day and night, 24 hours a day, since then. Not knowing whether my son is alive or dead, whether he ran away or was taken away, is literally a living hell, something which you no doubt have experienced during your many, many years locked in prison.

My letter to you is written out of desperation and faint hope, desperation because I know that for so many years neither you nor Ian Brady has ever admitted knowing anything about my son’s disappearance, and hope that Christianity has softened your soul so much that you would never any longer knowingly condemn someone to permanent purgatory. Please I beg of you, tell me what happened to Keith. My heart tells me you know and I am on bended knees begging you to end this torture and finally put my mind at rest. Besides asking for your pity, the only other thing I can say is that by helping me you will doubtless help yourself because those people who have harboured so much hate against you and prevented your being released a long time ago would have no reason left to harbour their hate. By telling me what happened to Keith you would be announcing loudly to the world that you really have turned into the kind, caring, warm person that Lord Longford speaks of.

I am a simple woman, I work in the kitchens of Christie’s Hospital, it has taken me five weeks labour to write this letter because it is so important to me that it is understood by you for what it is, a plea for help.

Please Miss Hindley help me.

Mrs W. Johnson.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

You must not even think of settlement during the war.

As World War II took hold, Rolex benefited from its growing reputation and unofficially became the brand of choice amongst British Royal Air Force pilots. Of course as captured pilots became prisoners their watches were confiscated, and when he caught wind of the situation the company's founder - Hans Wilsdorf - offered to replace them, on the understanding that payment would be provided after the war. Below is a fascinating note sent to prisoner of war Corporal Clive Nutting, by Wilsdorf himself, acknowledging receipt of such an order.

Even more fascinating is the following: Nutting was a prisoner at Stalag Luft III, the camp from which 76 men (Nutting not included) famously attempted to flee just a year later, and he apparently needed the Oyster chronograph in order to time certain aspects of his comrades' escape. In the early 1960s Nutting also worked as a consultant on The Great Escape, a movie based on the attempt.

Transcript follows. Many thanks to Maxwell for the tip.



Transcript

MONTRES ROLEX S. A.
18, RUE DU MARCHÉ
GENÈVE
TÉLÉGR.:ROLEX GENÈVE - TÉLÉPH. 5 03 36

Rappeler réf. HW/MC

GENÈVE, le 30th of March 1943

Cpl. C.J. Nutting
Gef.Nr. 738
Stalag Luft 3

Dear Sir,

We beg to acknowledge receipt of your order dated 10th March 43, and in accordance with your instructions we will supply you with 1 Chronograph Oyster No 122. This watch costs to-day in Switzerland Frs. 250,- but you must not even think of settlement during the war.

As we have now a large number of orders in hand for officers, there will be some unavoidable delay in the execution of your order, but we will do the best we can for you.

Meanwhile, believe us to be

Yours truly,
Montres ROLEX S. A.

Director

(Signed, 'H.Wilsdorf')

Monday, 11 January 2010

Your pal, John K.



In 1998, aged just 14, aspiring young cartoonist Amir Avni decided to send a letter to the creator of Ren & Stimpy, John Kricfalusi, along with a few cartoons he'd drawn, some of which contained relatively unknown characters of John's. An incredibly generous reply soon arrived in the form of the wonderfully supportive, illustrated letter seen below, along with this picture and a book by Preston Blair. When I spoke to Amir in 2010, he said of John's response:
"I think John puts a lot of faith in the younger generation of cartoonists, and wants to make sure they are well educated. He sees the younger generation as the future of cartoons, and that's why he's so approachable and good willed."
It's an admirable stance, and one that inspired this particular young animator to follow his dream. He has since studied animation at Sheridan College, has even worked as part of John's Digital Inking crew on the George Liquor Show, and currently, as of 2013, works for Cartoon Network. His brilliant work can be seen at his blog, Toonamir. John's blog is here.

Note: Thanks to the incredible response to this post early-2010, John Kricfalusi subsequently answered questions over on Reddit, who even changed their logo for a day to honour him.

Transcript follows. Huge thanks to both Amir and John.

















Transcript
Dear Amir,

Thanks for your letter and all your cartoons to look at.

We're having trouble opening your flash files, though; when I click the player it opens a blank screen. I have somebody trying to figure it out. If it doesn't work, maybe you can post them on the web and give me the URL.

Your comics are pretty good, especially your staging and continuity. You might have the makings of a good storyboard artist. I'm sending you a very good how to draw animation book by Preston Blair. Preston was one of Tex Avery's animators. He animated 'Red Hot Riding Hood' and many other characters.

His book shows you very important fundamentals of good cartoon drawing.

Construction. Learn how to construct your drawings out of 3-dimensional objects. Learn how to draw hands so they look solid. I want you to copy the drawings in his book. Start on the first page, draw slow. Look very closely. Measure the proportions. Draw the drawings step-by-step, just the way Preston does.

After you finish each drawing check it carefully against the drawing in the book. (if you do your drawings on tracing paper, you can lay the paper on top of the book to see where you made mistakes. On your drawing write the mistakes. Then do the drawing again, this time correcting the mistakes.

Here's another important piece of information for you:

Good drawing is more important than anything else in animation. More than ideas, style, stories. Everything starts with good drawing. Learn to draw construction, perspective.

Ok, now it's up to you.

Oh, by the way - OLD cartoons (from the 1940'a especially are better than new cartoons. If you copy the drawings in new cartoons you won't learn anything - except how to get bad habits. Look at Tom and Jerry from 1947 - 1954 or Elmer Fudd + Porky Pig from the 40's + early 50's.)

I'm amazed at how much you know about us. How do you know about BIGLOAF? and MILDMAN!

You can see Jimmy + George Liquor on the internet. Oh, I guess you know that.

Allright Bastard, let's get to work. Draw! and slow now.

My email address is [redacted] if you have any questions - not too many I hope! I get a lot of email and it's hard to answer it all.

Your pal,

John K.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Superman: The Man of Tomorrow



In 1934, four years before the superhero finally found a home at National Allied Publications, Jerry Siegel desperately needed an artist to work on his as-yet-unsuccessful Superman strip as a result of Joe Shuster's temporary departure. In an effort to secure his services, Siegel wrote the following letter to Buck Rogers artist Russell Keaton. Ultimately he turned the offer down, but what's fascinating about this letter is the tantalising glimpse of a Superman that could've been had Keaton agreed, as Siegel detailed an origin story unlike the extra-terrestrial version we actually grew to know.

The Man of Tomorrow indeed.

Transcript follows.

(Source: Newsarama; Image above via Comicvine.)



Transcript

10622 Kimberley Avenue,
Cleveland, Ohio,
June 12, 1934.

Dear Mr. Keaton:

You will find enclosed the first week's script for the cartoon strip, SUPERMAN. While the idea is a trifle fantastic -- a man with "infinite strength" -- I think it will follow the lines you like. We begin with "Superman" as a child and follow his history all the way up to maturity when the real story begins: of his adventures in helping those in need. Since Clark Kent possesses incredible strength there are great possibilities for humor and adventure in his experiences as a child and youth. The story of his youth will run a great length before we detail his adventures as an adult. Early, he will find that his great strength, instead of making friends for him, cause people to fear him. Mothers will not permit their children to associate with him, he will be hated in school sports because he never loses, etc. We can weave a very human story about him.

Here is the script for a possible sunday strip. It will acquaint you with the secret of Clark Kent's origin.

1. In his laboratory, the last man on earth worked furiously. He had only a few moments left.
2. Giant cataclysms were shaking the reeling planet, destroying mankind. It was in its last days, dying...
3. The last man placed his infant babe within a small time-machine he had completed, launching it as ---
4. --- the laboratory walls caved-in upon him.
5. The time-vehicle flashed back thru the centuries, alighting in the primitive year, 1935 A. D. A passing motorist sighted the metal cylinder...
6. ...and upon investigating discovered the sleeping babe within.
7. The infant was placed in an orphanage. The first day, it playfully bent its metal bed out of shape. The astounded attendants, of course, did not realize they were caring for a child whose physical structure was millions of years advanced from their own.
8. The babe, named Clark Kent, was a physical wonder. At the age of five, when an older boy sought to bully him, Clark sent him flying thru the air.
9. Clark's colossal strength was a source of wonder and pleasure to him. He found, at twelve, that he could easily shatter the world's high jump and dash records.
10. His powers increased unbelievably. When maturity had been attained, Kent discovered he could leap over a ten story building, raise unheard-of weights, run as fast as an express train, and that nothing less than a bursting shell could penetrate his tough skin.
11. & 12. Early, Kent decided he must turn his titanic strength into channels that would benefit mankind. And so was created SUPERMAN, champion of the oppressed, the physical marvel who had sworn to devote his existence to helping those in need!

Let me know if you would care to work with me upon this strip. I'll be glad to receive suggestions. The idea, incidently, is liked by the General Manager of Bell Syndicate. Awaiting your reply....

Sincerely,

(Signed, 'Jerome Siegel')

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Maddonna is utterly ARTLESS



In September of 1995, following years of supposed feuding, Madonna's televised chat with Kurt Loder at the VMAs was interrupted by a barely coherent Courtney Love as she launched the contents of her handbag onto the stage. Loder — quickly sensing the potential for carnage — gallantly invited Love up to join them, and the interview quickly deteriorated. A few months later, Spin Magazine published this interview with Madonna in which she recalled the incident, speculated that "drugs have destroyed [Courtney's] brain" and predicted that Love would respond to the Spin interview by "slagging me off online."

A short time later, Love wrote the following letter to Spin Magazine in response. If there was a third page, it was never found.

A transcript does follow, but it was difficult. Apologies for the mistakes.

(Source: Hard Rock International; Image of Courtney Love via.)





Transcript
Letters c/o Craig Marks from Courtney. (hey stop selling my Diary man!)

Dear Spin:

Maddonna wishes Id slag her. how can I insult wallpaper? Except to say, "That wallpaper in your Guest Room kinda sucks & ignore it? Her disco sucks. Thats all. Finito. Im a Rock chick. Rock chicks dont like disco. Ok? In another publication she said that Whitney and Mariah have 'no point of view'. Fair Enough. But, what? She does? heh heh heh. I dont particularly know or Dislike her, I just think she is utterly ARTLESS. (of course the Boys; Kurt, Eddie, Trent, Billy etc are Immune to this mysandrinist bitchery due to having scrotums) So me and P.J. and Liz and Elastica etc. are utterly too "Angsty"? Oh Eat me!! I can't even recite a lyric of hers, shes a Disco singer. She's not a poet or a musician. Shes a Giant celebrity Dancer. What to Get the Girl who has Everything? Indie Credibility!! "I want it NOW Daddy. Buy it for me"

As for Alanis Morissette, I disagree with you Mr Guccione, Ms. Morissette is a Product of Madonnas Fatal Flaw, contrivance at every level, at Maverick it was said to us that; (circa Early 91); "those Guys at Geffen are total Geniuses for Thinking up this whole 'Grunge' Thing, and putting that Nirvana Band together" - They, in thier laugh tracks, backing tracks, payola, paid cheering sections and contrived Artist minds could not even concieve that a seminal real Band could exist & succeed.

Try getting in a stinky van and touring this Country #99 times in the summer in a shitty shack with 4-20 people screaming "FREEBIRD!!" Getting broken teeth and Fingers and spit on and bald spots and bruised legs from Stage Diving. So here's the Debbie Gibson of Canada "The People's Courtney" As another publication called her; stick her with the Guy who wrote for Wilson/Phillips and Michael Jackson and, Good Christ They can come come up with ONE faux alternative song (its a pretty Good one too, which is terrifying - Now any Senior in high school with a poem will get a Backing Band & Rent a studio Guys - Are YOU ready for this Influx? EEEEK!) the Rest is BUNK-100% Spin Doctors meets Toad the Wet Sheryl with a 'Good' female voice. Im Glad Alanis is spreading "peace" Rather then "Angst" - And she Bugs me no more than Faith no more Bugged the Chili Peppers in thier Chili pepper phase; or no more than Candlebox (whose singer called me begging for cred as If I can Dispense it! He was a nice enough Guy, But Dispensing Cred, is I believe the Full time 'Jobs' of a certain band from Manhattan.) could have 'bugged' Kurt.....Im an opinionated kinda Gal, sorry, But Madonna Fascinates me in much the same way I Fascinate her (this crazed clothes horse, Cruella De Ville sucked into the mirror of her own Vanity.) Except I think 'Fascinate' is pushing it, a sort of passing interest from time to time, beyond that, Im really searching here, There isnt one single of hers I like,

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

No wonder Mary Poppins was awful in this regard

Following its release in 1988, the production team responsible for Who Framed Roger Rabbit were instantly applauded by the millions of stunned moviegoers who subsequently saw the film, and rightly so, as even now (an unbelievable 22 years later) the most hardened critic would have difficulty finding fault with the near-seamless interactions between live-action and animated characters. The following memo - sent by the movie's director of animation, Richard Williams (also author of the fantastic The Animator's Survival Kit), to all those working within the animation department - is a fantastic illustration, literally, of just how aware Williams was of the potential for disaster. Luckily for everyone the memo's message was heard, the eye lines were connected, and a Poppins was averted.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of original Roger Rabbit animator Peter Western. Huge thanks to Joe for bringing it to my attention.

Recommended reading: The Animator's Survival Kit: A Manual of Methods, Principles, and Formulas for Classical, Computer, Games, Stop Motion, and Internet Animators.



Transcript
AUGUST '87

MEMO TO ALL ANIMATORS, ALL ASSISTANTS, ALL INBETWEENERS

EYE LINES

A MAJOR PROBLEM HAS JUST LEPT OUT TO FACE US…

THE EYE LINES BETWEEN CARTOON CHARACTERS AND LIVE ACTION ONES ARE PROVING INCREDIBLY CRITICAL.

(NO WONDER MARY POPPINS WAS AWFUL IN THIS REGARD)

THE WHOLE TRICK IS BLOWN IF THE CARTOON PERSON DISCONNECTS HIMSELF FROM THE LIVE ACTORS EYELINE.

- IT SEEMS THAT ONLY 2 OR 3 FRAMES WRONG IS ALL THAT IS NEEDED TO BLOW THE ILLUSION.

THIS OBVIOUSLY HAS NEVER BEEN FACED OR SOLVED PROPERLY BEFORE AND SOMEHOW WE HAVE TO.

TAKE EXTRA CARE…

DICK

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Letterheady

To celebrate a new decade, I'd like to begin by introducing a new blog I've started by the name of Letterheady. I shall steal the description straight from the site as I'm unable to muster a fresh alternative...
letterheady
–adjective
1. overcome by a strong emotion due to a letterhead design.

Much like its sibling, Letters of Note, Letterheady is an online homage to offline correspondence; specifically letters. However, here at Letterheady we don't care about the letter's content. Just its design.
As well as being a great place to showcase interesting letterheads already featured here on Letters of Note (minus the text), this new site actually serves another purpose for me as it offers a home to letters which have constantly frustrated me since starting Letters of Note: those which are aesthetically fascinating due to their design but either unremarkable in terms of written content or absent of any content at all. It's a simple blog to digest and I hope you'll grow to love the idea as much as I already do. Submissions are welcome - but moderated - and for those who aren't fans of the concept: don't fret. Letterheady will not affect Letters of Note in any way.

Speaking of submissions, they're still very much appreciated here on Letters of Note. Admittedly the queue is long and it may take a while for the letter to be featured, but don't let that stop you from sending in any correspondence you think may be appreciated by others. Failing that, feel free to nominate us for a 2010 Bloggie before next Tuesday so we can reach a wider audience. The more people know about us, the more potential there is for previously unseen correspondence to come our way.

Finally, I've added a PayPal link on the left-hand side of this site (under 'Support Us') for those who wish to, and are able to, donate. All such donations are hugely appreciated and will go some way to help fill the income-gap created by my unending obsession with letters. Thanks!

Oh, and Happy New Year!

I wish I could do a lot more for you

Since the character's inception in the 1930s, the original creative forces behind Superman - and now their surviving families - have been disagreeing with publishers both behind closed doors and in court. From relatively petty arguments concerning the aesthetics of Superman's jockstrap through to more pressing matters relating to legal ownership of the Superhero, all debatable bases have been exhaustively covered. Luckily for bystanders, one of the few positives to be gleaned from the situation is the fascinating correspondence uncovered and submitted as evidence during the latest legal trial. Over the next week or so I'll be posting a few of these letters, beginning somewhat depressingly in 1976 and working backwards...

In December of 1974, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster - Superman's co-creators - were told by a U.S. Court of Appeal judge that they had indeed signed all copyrights to the Man of Steel over to National Allied Publications, for good, back in 1938. For $130. Two years later, as the first Superman movie was close to release and moviegoers geared up to spend millions watching the adaptation, Siegel wrote the following letter of conveyance to his daughter Laura along with photostats of original artwork and manuscripts relating to the introduction of 'one of the most successful fiction characters of all time', in the hope that someday she would 'be able to market this for its full value and get some material benefit from being the daughter of the originator of Superman'.

Transcript follows.





Transcript
JERRY SIEGEL

11928 Darlington Avenue, Apt. 102
West Los Angeles, California 90049
November 21, 1976

Ms. Laura Siegel
11928 Darlington Avenue, Apt. 102
West Los Angeles, California 90049

Dear Laura:

You are a wonderful person and a loving daughter and you have given me a lot of happiness.

I wish I could do a lot more for you. But there is something I can and want to do at once.

This is a letter of conveyance - and with this letter I am presenting to you as a gift, to do with as you wish, what I believe to be some very valuable material.

Six original photostat positive reproductions of the first week of the SUPERMAN daily strip, which was conceived by me, written by me, and drawn by Joe Shuster in late 1934. Also, six original photostat negatives of the same material. (Both of these photostat reproductions of the original art work of the first week of the SUPERMAN daily strip were made in late 1934.)

From 1934 on, this material was submitted by me to numerous newspaper syndicates, and publishers, in an attempt to make a deal for the publication of Superman. When, in 1938, a deal was made for SUPERMAN to be published in the new magazine ACTION COMICS, practically all of the original drawings from which these photostats were made were cut up and pasted onto comic book pages, with slight alterations (some panels trimmed, other panels slightly extended in size). A few of the panels in these photostats were never published... in daily strip number 1, I believe panel 1 was redrawn and the title and by-line inserted; I believe panel 3 of that strip was redrawn, and I believe the final panel of that first daily strip may have been redrawn.

That first week of SUPERMAN daily strip photostats was submitted to potential markets with two additional manuscripts I wrote. Fortunately, the original typed pages of these two rare Superman manuscripts are still in existence, and I hereby present them to you, in addition to the above described photostats.

The first "SUPERMAN (Synopsis)" manuscript, 3 pages long, contains a description of "(Releases for 2nd Week"). The story in the manuscript continues where the first six drawn-up daily strips of Superman ended. The manuscript contains a detailed description of what the second week of proposed Superman daily strips would contain...daily strips 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. This contains not only detailed descriptions, but some dialogue, too. This synopsis manuscript describes exactly what appeared in the second week of SUPERMAN daily strips. The drawn daily strips of Superman, herein described, were later cut up, pasted onto pages, and reproduced together with the art of daily strip week one, in ACTION COMICS No. 1, June, 1938 issue.

The second "SUPERMAN (Synopsis)" manuscript, 4 pages long, contains a description of ("Releases for Weeks 3 and 4"). The story in the manuscript continues where the story of "2nd week" in the first manuscript ends. The manuscript contains a detailed description of what Superman daily strip weeks 3 and 4 contained; describing in week 3, daily strips 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18. And it describes in week 4, daily strips 19, 20, 21, 22, 23 and 24. Again, both descriptions and some dialogue are in the manuscript. This synopsis manuscript describes exactly what appeared in the 3rd and 4th week of the SUPERMAN daily strips. The drawn strips of Superman, herein described, were later cut up, pasted onto pages, and reproduced together with the art of daily strips week one and two in ACTION COMICS No. 1, June, 1938. On page four of this second manuscript is some material I wrote in which I described why I felt Superman would become a great hit "sure to become the idol of young and old." In it, I described more of the proposed format for the adventures of Superman.

The Superman daily strip art work for weeks 2, 3 and 4 was prepared after I wrote detailed script based on these two synopses manuscripts.

This material is the original conception of the SUPERMAN comic strip, as conceived and written by me. It was in this material, created by me in late 1934 (this concept was not published until June, 1938 issue of ACTION COMICS No. 1) - the version which went into publication - that Superman emerged to become one of the most successful fiction characters of all time.

Most creators of successful literary properties leave valuable estates to their heirs. I am very sorry that because of my inexperience that this is not true in your case. I am glad, though, that this original material in which Superman was first created has survived through the years, and I am giving this to you, my beloved daughter Laura, in the hope that someday you will be able to market this for its full value and get some material benefit from being the daughter of the originator of Superman.

With loving regards from your father...

Jerry Siegel

Monday, 4 January 2010

Art is useless because...



In 1890, following the publication of Oscar Wilde's novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, an intrigued young fan named Bernulf Clegg wrote to the author and asked him to explain a now-famous line included in its preface: "All art is quite useless."

To Clegg's surprise, Wilde responded with the handwritten letter seen below.

Transcript follows.

(Source: The Morgan; Image: Oscar Wilde, via.)








Image: The Morgan

Transcript
16, TITE STREET,
CHELSEA. S.W.

My dear Sir

Art is useless because its aim is simply to create a mood. It is not meant to instruct, or to influence action in any way. It is superbly sterile, and the note of its pleasure is sterility. If the contemplation of a work of art is followed by activity of any kind, the work is either of a very second-rate order, or the spectator has failed to realise the complete artistic impression.

A work of art is useless as a flower is useless. A flower blossoms for its own joy. We gain a moment of joy by looking at it. That is all that is to be said about our relations to flowers. Of course man may sell the flower, and so make it useful to him, but this has nothing to do with the flower. It is not part of its essence. It is accidental. It is a misuse. All this is I fear very obscure. But the subject is a long one.

Truly yours,

Oscar Wilde

The birth of Bonfire Night



On 26th October, 1605, William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle, received a letter, seen below, in which he was advised, anonymously, to stay away from Parliament the following week as a “terrible blowe” was expected to meet all those present. That terrible blow was in fact The Gunpowder Plot, a plan to blow up the Houses of Parliament organised by a group of people that included Guy Fawkes, a man now familiar to millions and whose failures we celebrate on November 5th of each year. Rather than burn the letter after reading as suggested, William Parker passed it to the Earl of Salisbury, who then informed King James of the planned atrocity. As a result, in the early hours of November 5th, Fawkes was discovered underneath Parliament along with 36 barrels of gunpowder, and the plot was foiled. He was then tortured, and later jumped to his death as he awaited execution.

For the next 254 years it was compulsory in Britain to celebrate the plot’s failure, with most choosing to burn an effigy of Fawkes on a bonfire.

This letter, along with 124 other fascinating pieces of correspondence, can be found in the bestselling book, Letters of Note. More info here.



Transcript
My lord, out of the love I beare to some of youere frends, I have a care of youre preservacion, therefore I would aduyse you as you tender your life to devise some excuse to shift youer attendance at this parliament, for God and man hath concurred to punishe the wickedness of this tyme, and thinke not slightly of this advertisement, but retire yourself into your country, where you may expect the event in safety, for though there be no apparance of anni stir, yet I saye they shall receive a terrible blowe this parliament and yet they shall not seie who hurts them this cowncel is not to be contemned because it may do yowe good and can do yowe no harme for the dangere is passed as soon as yowe have burnt the letter and i hope God will give yowe the grace to mak good use of it to whose holy proteccion i comend yowe.

Simplified Transcript
My lord, out of the love I have for some of your friends, I want to make sure you are safe. Because of this I would advise you to not attend this sitting of parliament because God and man have agreed to punish the wickedness of this time. Do not think this is a joke, go to your estate in the country where you will be safe, because although there is no sign of any problem yet, this parliament will receive a terrible blow, but they will not see who it is that hurts them. This advice should not be ignored as it may do you some good, and it can do you no harm because the danger will have passed as soon as you have burned this letter. I hope God grants you the grace to make good use of it, and that he protects you.