Monday, 28 February 2011

Be your own self. Love what YOU love.

In 1991, schoolteacher William Stanhope wrote to a number of high-profile personalities and politely asked for the following: a description of an obstacle they had faced in their lifetime, big or small, and the story of their attempt to overcome it. He then collated the responses and used them to teach his class. The lovely letter below was sent to Stanhope by Ray Bradbury, the legendary author of, most notably, Fahrenheit 451.

Transcript follows.

(Source: RR Auction; Image: Ray Bradbury, via.)

ray bradbury enterprises
los angeles, california 90064

dear william stanhope:

most important decision i ever made came at age 9...i was collecting BUCK ROGERS comic strips, 1929, when my 5th grade classmates made fun of me. I tore up the strips. A week later, broke into tears. Why was I crying? I wondered. Who die? Me, was the answer. I have torn up the future. What to do about it? Start collecting BUCK ROGERS again. Fall in love with the Future! I did just that. And after that never listened to one damnfool idiot classmate who doubted me! What did I learn? To be myself and never let others, prejudiced, interfer with my life. Kids, do the same. Be your own self. Love what YOU love.

Best wishes,

(Signed, 'RAY B.')


Friday, 25 February 2011

Scientists have a special responsibility

On the 5th of April, 1955, Nobel laureate Bertrand Russell sent the following letter to Albert Einstein along with a rough draft of what would soon be known as the Russell-Einstein Manifesto - a written warning to the world's population on the dangers of nuclear weapons, and a plea for all leaders to avoid war when faced with conflict - and asked him to be both a signatory and supporter. Einstein's short reply, and in fact the last letter he ever wrote, arrived a week later:
Dear Bertrand Russell,

Thank you for your letter of April 5. I am gladly willing to sign your excellent statement. I also agree with your choice of the prospective signers.

With kind regards,

A. Einstein.
Einstein passed away on the 18th of that month, and the manifesto was released to the public on July 9th. The Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs formed in 1957 as a direct result.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of McMaster University Libraries.

5 April, 1955.

41, Queen's Road,
Richmond, Surrey.

Dear Einstein,

I have been turning over in my mind, and discussing with various people, the best steps for giving effect to the feeling against war among the great majority of men of science. I think the first step should be a statement by men of the highest eminence, communists and anti-Communists, Western and Eastern, about the disasters to be expected in a war. I enclose a draft of such a statement, and I very much hope that you will be willing to sign it. I enclose also a list of those whom I am asking to sign. If sufficient signatures are obtained, I think the next step should be an international scientific congress which should be invited by the signatories to pass a resolution on the lines of the draft resolution which I enclose. I hope that in this way both Governments and public opinion can be made aware of the seriousness of the situation.

On the whole, I have thought that it was better at this stage to approach only men of science and not men in other fields, such as Arnold Toynbee whom you mentioned. Scientists have, and feel that they have, a special responsibility, since their work has unintentionally caused our present dangers. Moreover, widening the field would make it very much more difficult to steer clear of politics.

Yours sincerely,

(Signed, 'Bertrand Russell')

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Older mistresses are so grateful!!

On June 25th of 1745, Benjamin Franklin wrote the following letter of advice to Cadwallader Colden. The first paragraph sees Franklin suggesting marriage as the best remedy for Colden's sexual urges; what follows is an eight-strong list detailing the advantages of an older mistress which, due to its "obscene" nature, resulted in the letter being omitted from published collections of his writings during the 19th Century.

Transcript follows. Images courtesy of The Rosenbach Museum & Library, via the Leather Archives & Museum.

Images: The Rosenbach

June 25, 1745

My dear Friend,

I know of no Medicine fit to diminish the violent natural Inclinations you mention; and if I did, I think I should not communicate it to you. Marriage is the proper Remedy. It is the most natural State of Man, and therefore the State in which you are most likely to find solid Happiness. Your Reasons against entring into it at present, appear to me not well-founded. The circumstantial Advantages you have in View by postponing it, are not only uncertain, but they are small in comparison with that of the Thing itself, the being married and settled. It is the Man and Woman united that make the compleat human Being. Separate, she wants his Force of Body and Strength of Reason; he, her Softness, Sensibility and acute Discernment. Together they are more likely to succeed in the World. A single Man has not nearly the Value he would have in that State of Union. He is an incomplete Animal. He resembles the odd Half of a Pair of Scissars. If you get a prudent healthy Wife, your Industry in your Profession, with her good Economy, will be a Fortune sufficient.

But if you will not take this Counsel, and persist in thinking a Commerce with the Sex inevitable, then I repeat my former Advice, that in all your Amours you should prefer old Women to young ones. You call this a Paradox, and demand my Reasons. They are these:

1. Because as they have more Knowledge of the World and their Minds are better stor’d with Observations, their Conversation is more improving and more lastingly agreable.

2. Because when Women cease to be handsome, they study to be good. To maintain their Influence over Men, they supply the Diminution of Beauty by an Augmentation of Utility. They learn to do a 1000 Services small and great, and are the most tender and useful of all Friends when you are sick. Thus they continue amiable. And hence there is hardly such a thing to be found as an old Woman who is not a good Woman.

3. Because there is no hazard of Children, which irregularly produc’d may be attended with much Inconvenience.

4. Because thro’ more Experience, they are more prudent and discreet in conducting an Intrigue to prevent Suspicion. The Commerce with them is therefore safer with regard to your Reputation. And with regard to theirs, if the Affair should happen to be known, considerate People might be rather inclin’d to excuse an old Woman who would kindly take care of a young Man, form his Manners by her good Counsels, and prevent his ruining his Health and Fortune among mercenary Prostitutes.

5. Because in every Animal that walks upright, the Deficiency of the Fluids that fill the Muscles appears first in the highest Part: The Face first grows lank and wrinkled; then the Neck; then the Breast and Arms; the lower Parts continuing to the last as plump as ever: So that covering all above with a Basket, and regarding only what is below the Girdle, it is impossible of two Women to know an old from a young one. And as in the dark all Cats are grey, the Pleasure of corporal Enjoyment with an old Woman is at least equal, and frequently superior, every Knack being by Practice capable of Improvement.

6. Because the Sin is less. The debauching a Virgin may be her Ruin, and make her for Life unhappy.

7. Because the Compunction is less. The having made a young Girl miserable may give you frequent bitter Reflections; none of which can attend the making an old Woman happy.

8. They are so grateful!!

Thus much for my Paradox. But still I advise you to marry directly; being sincerely

Your affectionate Friend,

B. Franklin

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The Giant Zlig

Early-1976, aged 17 and still in high school, aspiring artist Tim Burton sent both a letter and copy of his illustrated children's book — The Giant Zlig — to Walt Disney Productions in the hope that they would publish it. Weeks later, he received a very polite rejection letter from an editor named T. Jeanette Kroger in which she outlined her impressions of his submitted work and offered predominantly positive feedback. Both letters can be seen below.

Just three years after the knock-back, Burton graduated from CalArts with a degree in character animation, at which point he was quickly hired by Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Transcripts follow.

(Source: KidCity; Image above: MOMA.)

Dear Sirs,

I am submitting this book in hopes that you might consider publishing it. The book has been layed out in rough form, and I would be glad to make any changes that you feel would be nessecary. I would hope to hear from you either way. Thankyou.


Tim Burton


February 19, 1976

Dear Tim:

Here are some brief impressions of your book, The Giant Zlig.

STORY: The story is simple enough for a young audience (age 4-6), cute, and shows a grasp of the language much better than I would expect from one of today's high school students, despite occasional lapses in grammar and spelling. It may, however, be too derivative of the Seuss works to be marketable--I just don't know. But I definitely enjoyed reading it.

ART: Considering that you suffer from a lack of the proper tools and materials, the art is very good. The characters are charming and imaginative, and have sufficient variety to sustain interest. Your layout is also good--it shows good variety in point-of-view. Consequently, I not only enjoyed reading about the Giant Zlig, but I got a chuckle watching him, too.

I hope my comments please you. Thanks for the opportunity to read The Giant Zlig; keep up the good work, and good luck.

Very truly yours,

(Signed, 'Jeanette')

T. Jeanette Kroger
Walt Disney Productions

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

You were of course the outstanding candidate

In May of 2006, armed only with a glittering virtual career on Football Manager 2005 and limited success in charge of a local under-11s team, then-25-year-old John Boileau made the leap and applied — with tongue firmly in cheek — to become the new manager of Middlesbrough Football Club. Below are his covering letter and CV as sent to the club's chairman and owner, multi-millionaire Steve Gibson. Also below is Gibson's fantastic response.

Transcript follows.

(Source: John Boileau; huge thanks to @NickMotown for suggesting the letter.)

Images: John Boileau


John's covering letter:

John Boileau

19 May 2006

Mr Steve Gibson
Middlesbrough Football Club
Riverside Stadium

Re: Application for the Managerial Position at Middlesbrough Football Club

Dear Mr Gibson

I am writing with regard to the current managerial vacancy at Middlesbrough Football Club. I would be extremely grateful if you could consider my CV in your search for the new manager. I really feel that this is an ideal job for me given my enthusiasm for football along with my related experience and qualifications.

I have both the technical and practical experience of managing a football club. The tactical side of football has always been very important to me, which is demonstrated through my success on the game Football Manager 2005. I have managed clubs including Nuneaton Borough, Chievo Verona, Kalmar FF, Doncaster and even Chelsea. Although my experience at Chievo was not a particularly positive one and led to my sacking (I'm sure you saw the headlines), I feel that I have brought success to all of the other clubs I have managed (including taking Nuneaton Borough to the Championship North in eight seasons and winning the Swedish League with Kalmar FF). My Football Manager 2005 experience has included league, cup and European experience and has allowed me to become an expert in work permits, scouting, tactics and man management.

As you can see from my attached CV, I've taken the opportunity to gain extra qualifications away from football including gaining a degree in geography and archaeology which I'm sure will provide many transferable skills that will assist me in running a football club. I hear Mark Viduka has a significant and considerable interest in 12th century Egyptian pottery which would be an excellent bonding point for the two of us if I were to be successful.

Away from Football Manager 2005 I have hands-on managerial experience with the Nuneaton and Bedworth St. Paul's Under-11s football team. Under my guidance we beat off competition from 15 other clubs to win the 1999 Nuneaton and Bedworth Summer Playscheme cup (we won the final 5-4 on penalties against the host team, Nuneaton College Site. I'm sure you've seen this game repeated many times on Sky. Andy Grey has called this game a 'classic' on more than one occasion.

Relocation for the role is not a problem. I work with a guy from Middlesbrough and he says nothing but good things about the people and the place, so I'm sure my girlfriend and I would be able to settle down nicely in the area.

The real benefit for you in appointing me to this role would be my salary expectations. I'd be willing to start for around £80,000 per year which, let's face it, is very reasonable considering some of the salaries in the world of football.

I am available for interview at your convenience and look forward to hearing from you - my contact details can be found on my CV.

Yours Sincerely


John Boileau

John's CV:

Curriculum Vitae - John Alexander Boileau

Personal Statement

I am a young ambitious football manager with vast experience (on Football Manager 2005) of managing lower and higher level clubs both in England and abroad. I have managed in both the premiership and the championship in England, and Serie A, La Liga and the Swedish Premiership.

Career Highlights

Signing Thierry Henry, Raul and Fernando Torres as the three main strikers at Doncaster.

Taking Rushden and Diamonds to the Champions League final (unfortunately we lost to Ajax in extra time). The Rushden and Diamonds team that day included Zinidine Zidane and Ronaldinho, who are two players I'm sure the small Northamptonshire club never expected to see running out for them.

Taking charge of Nuneaton Borough (my home town club) and taking them from the Conference North to the Championship in eight years.

Football Manager 2005 Highlights

2004 to 2016, Manager, Nuneaton Borough Football Club
Took the mighty Boro from the Conference North to the Championship during my eleven year reign at the club. These were very proud days for Sunny Nunny and I was given the key to the town.

2005 - 2015, Manager, Rushden and Diamonds Football Club
Managed Rusden and Diamonds. Took the small Northamptonshire club from relative obscurity in League Two to Premiership and European Champions in just ten years. My signings included Zinidine Zidane, Raul, Francesco Totti, Roberto Carlos and Phillipe Mexes. I was actually dismissed from my post in 2015 when Rusden finished 4th in the Premiership and only reached the quarter finals of the Champion's League. How's that for gratitude?

2005 to 2011, Manager, Doncaster Rovers Football Club
Took Doncaster from League Two to the Premiership and the semi-finals of the Champion's League. I also signed a whole host of foreign stars and blooded a number of youth players that became England internationals. This was one of my happiest periods in football management, but did lead to my girlfriend threatening to leave me due to the hours I was putting in at the PC.

Practical Managerial Experience

1999, Manager, St Paul's Under-11's
It was with great pride that I took the reigns of the St Paul's Under-11's tournament and guided the team to the Summer Playscheme Cup in 1999. The team gave their all knowing that all they would get for winning would be a £10 voucher for Whiteman's Sporting Goods, Nuneaton (players were more grounded in those days). You can see a photo of the team and I below, taken shortly before we crushed the hosts in the final, in their own back yard:


Other Qualifications

9 GCSEs, including Maths (useful for working out points and goal difference and stuff) and French (useful for those foreign players, like Frank Queudrue).

3 'A' Levels, including Geography, so I can drive the team bus if needs be.

BA Hons Degree in Archaeology and Geography. Can't think of anything relevant from my degree, so I'll play the old 'transferable skills' card...


Available on request

Steve Gibson's personal response:

Middlesbrough Football Club
Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough, TS3 6RS

16th June 2006

Mr J Boileau

Dear John

Many thanks for your recent application for the Managerial position at Middlesbrough Football Club.

You were of course the outstanding candidate but after careful consideration we decided against your appointment. Quite frankly we were of the opinion that your tenure with us would have been short lived, as your undoubted talent would result in one of the big European Clubs seeking your services.

We consider it a sign of our progress that someone of your status could consider us.




Monday, 21 February 2011

I had no idea that the City of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Bros.

When the legal department of Warner Bros. were notified of a forthcoming feature-length Casablanca spoof in 1945 - A Night in Casablanca, featuring a lead character named 'Humphrey Bogus' - they were naturally curious as to the specifics, and so innocently requested more information from the movie's creators, the Marx Brothers. Very quickly Groucho, sensing the opportunity for free publicity, fabricated a lawsuit from the studio and a crowd-pleasing defence: claiming Warner Bros. had strongly objected to the spoof's name, he proceeded to write an open letter to the studio - an early draft of which can be seen below - in which he humorously picked apart their non-existent argument. The phantom spat was talk of the industry. Further requests for information also proved fruitless for the studio and they eventually gave up; by which time the public were fully on the side of the Marx Brothers and geared up to see their widely-discussed movie.

It's testament to Groucho's storytelling abilities that, to this day, the often incorrectly relayed story continues to paint Warner Bros. in such an unforgiving light.

Transcript follows. Scans very kindly supplied by the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, upon request.

Dear Warner Brothers:

Apparently there is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it as your own. For example, up to the time that we contemplated making a picture, I had no idea that the City of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers.

However, it was only a few days after our announcement appeared that we received a long, ominous legal document, warning us not to use the name "Casablanca".

It seems that in 1471, Ferdinand Balboa Warner, the great-great grandfather of Harry and Jack, while looking for a short cut to the city of Burbank, had stumbled on the shores of Africa and, raising his alpenstock, which he later turned in for a hundred shares of common, named it Casablanca.

I just don't understand your attitude. Even if they plan on re-releasing the picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don't know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.

You claim you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without their permission. What about Warner Brothers -- do you own that, too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. When Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor's eye, we were touring the sticks as the Marx Brothers and even before us, there had been other brothers -- the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazoff; Dan Brouthers, an outfielder with Detroit; and "Brother, can you spare a dime?" This was originally "Brothers, can you spare a dime" but this was spreading a dime pretty thin so they threw out one brother, gave all the money to the other brother and whittled it down to "Brother, can you spare a dime?"

The younger Warner Brother calls himself Jack. Does he claim that, too? It's not an original name -- it was used long before he was born. Offhand, I can think of two Jacks -- there was Jack of "Jack and the Beanstalk", and Jack, the Ripper, who cut quite a figure in his day. As for Harry, the older brother, he probably signs his checks, sure in the belief that he is the first Harry of all time and that all other Harrys are impostors. Offhand, I can think of two Harrys that preceded him. There was Lighthorse Harry of Revolutionary fame and a Harry Appelbaum who lived on the corner of Ninety-third Street and Lexington Avenue. Appelbaum wasn't very well known -- I've almost forgotten what he looked like -- the last I heard of him, he was selling neckties at Weber and Heilbroner; but I'll never forget his mother, she made the best apple strudle in Yorkville.

We now come to the Burbank studio. This is what the Warner Brothers call their place. Old man Burbank is gone. Perhaps you remember him -- he was a great man in a garden, he was the wizard who crossed all those fruits and vegetables until he had the poor plants in such a confused and nervous state, that they never were sure whether they were supposed to come in on the meat platter or the dessert dish.

This is just conjecture, of course, but, who knows -- perhaps Burbank survivors aren't too happy over the fact that a plant that grinds out pictures settled in their town, appropriated Burbank's name and uses it as a front for their films.

It is even possible that the Burbank family is prouder of the potato produced by the old man than they are of the fact that from this town emerged "Casablanca" or even "Gold Diggers of 1931".

This all seems to add up to a pretty bitter tirade but I don't mean it to. I love Warners -- some of my best friends are Warner Brothers. It is even possible that I am doing them an injustice and that they themselves know nothing at all about this dog-in-the-Wanger attitude. It wouldn't surprise me at all to discover that the heads of Warners' legal department know nothing about this dispute for I am acquainted with many of them and they are fine fellows with curly black hair, double-breasted suits and a love of their fellow man that out-Saroyans "Dr. Gillespie". I have a hunch that his attempt to prevent us from using the title is the scheme of some ferret-faced shyster serving an apprenticeship in their legal department. I know the type -- hot out of law school, hungry for success and too ambitious to follow the natural laws of promotion, this bar sinister probably needled Warners' attorneys, most of whom are fine fellows with curly black hair, double-breasted suits, etc., in attempting to enjoin us.

Well, he won't get away with it! We'll fight him to the highest court! No pasty-faced legal adventurer is going to cause bad blood between the Warners and the Marxes. We are all brothers under the skin and we'll remain friends till the last reel of "A Night in Casablanca" goes tumbling over the spool.

Friday, 18 February 2011

I had to turn down BLACK SPRING

On September 8th of 1936, Bennett Cerf - co-founder of Random House - wrote the following letter to author Henry Miller. In it, he rejected Miller's third novel, Black Spring, adding that it hadn't "the faintest chance of achieving commercial success in America."

Miller's reaction to Cerf's appraisal can be seen by way his brief handwritten annotation at the foot of the letter.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Will Campbell.


September 8, 1936.

Mr. Henry Miller,
18 Villa Seurat,
Paris xiv, France.

Dear Mr. Miller:

I am sorry to say that I had to turn down BLACK SPRING. I admire your talent for writing, but I didn't like this particular book at all. In my opinion, it hasn't the faintest chance of achieving commercial success in America. I hope, for your sake, some other publisher thinks differently about the book and that I turn out to be all wrong about it.

It wouldn't be the first time!



Bennett A. Cerf

File or throw away?
A lukewarm prick!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Love, the anti-christ

[Warning: Possibly Offensive Language Ahead]

On March 31st of 1994, a highly-charged Madonna appeared as a guest on the Late Show with David Letterman. Over the course of the now-infamous interview she said the word "fuck" a record thirteen times; called Letterman himself a "sick fuck"; asked the host to smell some underwear she was holding; refused to leave the stage when asked; and was jeered by the audience. Her behaviour resulted in numerous complaints, much discussion, and extremely high viewing figures.

A fortnight later, on April 12th - Letterman's birthday - Madonna faxed the following note to his office.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Julien's, who are selling the letter on the 27th of March.

Image: Julien's


Happy Fucking Birthday Dave!

glad you could get so much mileage out of the fucking show. Next time you need some Fucking publicity, just give me a fucking call.

the anti-christ
M. xx

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

I love my Muppet life

Today, for no particular reason, I bring you a Muppet-themed extravaganza. Keep scrolling after the first letter — there's more.

First, a lovely, very funny internal memo from the late-Jim Henson in 1986 containing three commercial ideas for a Swedish Chef breakfast cereal. In fact what began as a parody eventually became a reality, with the product launching briefly as 'Cröonchy Stars' in 1988. After that can be found the draft of a letter written by Henson, in character as the Swedish Chef, to the Swedish Trade Office in 1983 after they requested an appearance from him at the 'International Fancy Food and Confection Show' in Washington that year.

Transcripts follow; the second of which, despite my best efforts, is almost definitely incorrect. Images courtesy of Jim Henson's Red Book.


7 October, 1986

To: Isabel, Michael, Diana, Ritamarie

From: Jim



The Chef makes the dough – plays with it, beats it, rolls it, puts it in the oven – turns the oven all the way up to "explode" – plays the accordian until the oven explodes – raining Oven Poofs all over the place


The Chef loads a blunderbuss with cereal – puts an apple on a catapult type thing – the apple goes up – he fires and blasts a hole in the wall – repeat – he blasts a hole in the ceiling – repeat – hits the apple – gets apple cereal – the Chef is happy


The Chef has a cereal launcher machine – he pushes a button – one piece of cereal flies out and he shoots it with a pistol – shows the successful Stoopid Hoop – launches again– the cereal comes out faster – he fires faster – the cereal comes flying out – the Chef gets a machine gun – destroys the kitchen – the Chef is happy


Ho Komissionooster Sjolund!

Sveern hund der meenskroo skort herg dah smorgasbord bord bord.

Gloo das click click ein mein filmikin den Washington fom des Fancy Food, goôde des griting zoo des Kükenmenenstoof.

Yay boo thanken svenson eet des goo goo Per Nilsson und des Eilest Nassell fer yoom yoom.

Bork Bork!

Next, a lovely missive written by Caroll Spinney, the man responsible for voicing, and indeed muppeteering, both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch almost exclusively since Sesame Street's debut in 1969. It was written in September of 2010 in response to a letter of appreciation from writer Justin Shady, in which he thanked Spinney for being such a positive influence during not just his childhood, but also those of countless others.

Transcript follows. Images very kindly supplied by Justin Shady; larger versions of which can be seen at his blog, The Blarg.

Images: Justin Shady

August 31, 2010

Dear Justin—

Just working down from my huge pile of letters I get every week relating to the show. Came to yours, dated 11-10-09. Some are dated 08! Anyway, I enjoyed reading your letter and I say thanks!

I love my Muppet life. Don't see Frank anymore. We will always miss Jim dreadfully. Jerry still does the voice of the Count, but not the puppetry. Marty and Fran and Matt (my stand-in) and others are still around, all directed by Kevin Clash, puppeteer extraordinaire.

I hope to do the Bird & Grouch for 50 years, but I have nine years to go. It's nice to have goals — but maybe that one might be hard to reach.

I was once a skinny, slightly goofy kid myself. Helps me to play my Bird.

So hello, six year old Justin Inside! Thanks for the great letter!

Warmly —

Caroll Spinney

And finally, an exchange between a concerned member of the public and the Children's Television Workshop in 1979. The complainant, a Mr. Joseph Regoli, was clearly extremely worried due to Sesame Street's depiction of The Count, both on screen and in the book The Count's Number Parade; so much so that CTW's inadequate initial response resulted in a letter to Joan Cooney, the last part of which somehow managed to mention "widespread rape that would be of such a monstrous sort (and source) that it has never before been observed."

Again, transcripts follow. Images courtesy of Muppet Wiki.

The initial complaint:

CTW's response:

Mr. Regoli's second letter, to Joan Cooney:

Images: Muppet Wiki


The initial complaint:
April 17, 1989

Children's Television Workshop
Western Publishing Company, Inc

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am writing because I do consider the small book, " The Count's Number Parade", as misleading and poisonous for children. Specifically, the book seems to portray Dracula ("The Count") as being a nice, entertaining person - instead of a monster. It seems poisonous to make a monster (Dracula) to appear as a competent teacher (even a teacher of numbers) because such an appearance would seem to mislead children into trusting Dracula, and possibly monsters in general. Such a misplaced trust would preclude the child from developing a healthy fear, and distrust of monsters. Such fear and distrust would, hopefully, help the child to perceive evil and avoid it, instead of trustingly walking into a trap. Some of your other books about monsters may also be similarly misleading.

A counterargument could be raised with the question, "Do Dracula and other monsters really exist?", a question which may be intended to undermine my argument at the very foundation of my argument. But yes, probably monsters (including Dracula) do exist but not in "personal" form. Instead, monsters exist as non-personified evil, on our culture.

Please tell me what you think.

Joseph B. Regoli
CTW's response:
May 23, 1979


Dear Mr. Regoli:

Thank you for your comments on THE COUNT'S NUMBER PARADE. We have tried to make it clear that the Count is not a representative of evil. He is presented as a rather eccentric character -- obsessed with counting everything in sight. Other characters on Sesame Street react to the Count's behavior with amusement (or sometimes exasperation) but never fear.

Our other "monsters" also do not in any way represent evil. They are meant to be a mirror of the silly but endearing aspects of all of us.

Again, Mr. Regoli, thank you for your concern.



Deborah November
Assistant Editor

Mr. Regoli's second letter, to Joan Cooney:

June 1, 1979

Joan Cooney
Children's Television Workshop

Dear Mrs. Cooney:

I ask you to consider the possibility that a part of "Sesame Street" may be poisonous for children. Please refer to my letter of April 18, 1979 and Deborah November's letter of May 23, 1979 in reply. Also, please notice that I addressed my April 18 letter to both CTW and Western Publishing Co., the publisher of the small book "The Count's Number Parade" and other books featuring rather monstrous-looking characters.

Deborah November seems to have missed the main point of my letter: it is precisely because the Count (Dracula) is not portrayed as a character to be feared that the portrayal is so poisonous. To teach children to not fear Dracula is to teach them to not avoid Dracula, which is disastrous.

As I said in my April 18 letter, Dracula does not exist in a "personal" form. But Dracula does exist as non-personified evil, in our culture. Therefore, clearly, children need to avoid Dracula. But parts of Sesame Street (the parts featuring The Count [Dracula]) seem to undermine the child's normal healthy fear, and distrust, of monsters. But such undermining can bring disaster.

When a rock strikes a window and the window breaks, those who see will certainly say, "The window broke because the rock was thrown". Do we today fail to see the cause of the violence today around us? Do we dare not to see the cause of that violence: what we did yesterday. Do we say that what we do today will have no effect tomorrow?

Specifically, what effect will come out of the Sesame Street portrayal of the Count? Will the learning of numbers turn out to be trivial compared with what could be the significant effect: widespread rape that would be of such a monstrous sort (and source) that it has never before been observed.

The seed of good needs to be sown.

Please tell me what your considerations are in these regards.

(Joseph B.) Regoli

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Most sincerely yours

[Do not read if easily offended]

In December of 2003, an article written by Richard Dawkins appeared in Free Inquiry magazine. In it, he wrote of a dangerous drug named Gerin Oil and the many millions of deaths around the globe attributed to its existence. Said Dawkins:
"The four doomed flights of September 11th 2001 were Gerin Oil trips: all nineteen of the hijackers were high on the drug at the time. Historically, Geriniolism was responsible for atrocities such as the Salem Witch Hunts and the massacres of Native South Americans by Conquistadores. Gerin Oil fuelled most of the wars of the European Middle Ages and, in more recent times, the carnage that attended the partitioning of the Indian subcontinent and of Ireland."
The whole article can be read here, and in fact the drug is fictional; its name being an anagram of the word 'religion'. Unsurprisingly, angry letters soon appeared, and below is just one stunningly coarse example; angrily written in 2008 by a Mr. Peter Colley.

Again: do not read if easily offended.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Richard Dawkins, via PZ Meyers.

Image: PZ Myers


Sept. 6, 2008


You are a filthy, motherfucking, pigshit cunt of an arsehole British pig and bastard to cheat, deceive, and hoodwink readers with your rotten Free Inquiry article (which shit I enclose so that you can read your own drivel!). No one but an arrogant, putrid, verminous burke would resort to such a cheap, pigsty trick (unless, of course, he is Michael Shermer, who is as much of a stinking cunt and skunk as you are). Wallow well in your Oxford pigsty, elitist British oaf and vermin!!! I spit on shit like you, especially if they are British elitist turds!!!

Most sincerely yours,

(Signed, 'Peter Colley')

Peter Colley

P.S. Fuck you, stinking son of a British whore!!!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Regarding your stupid complaint

In November of 1974, an attorney named Dale Cox wrote to his favourite American football club, the Cleveland Browns, and informed them that a number of the team's fans were regularly throwing paper aeroplanes in the stadium — a potentially "dangerous" activity that could, he warned, cause "serious eye injury" to innocent fans such as himself.

His stern letter can be seen below, along with the now legendary reply he soon received from the club's legal department.

Transcripts follow.

(Source: Clevescene.)

The Response:

Roetzel and Andress
Counsellors at Law
20th Floor
One Cascade Plaza
Akron, Ohio 44308

November 18, 1974

The Cleveland Browns
Cleveland Stadium
Cleveland, OH


I am one of your season ticket holders who attends or tries to attend every game. It appears that one of the pastimes of several fans has become the sailing of paper airplanes generally made out of the game program. As you know, there is the risk of serious eye injury and perhaps an ear injury as a result of such airplanes. I am sure that this has been called to your attention and that several of your ushers and policemen witnessed the same.

Please be advised that since you are in a position to control or terminate such action on the part of fans, I will hold you responsible for any injury sustained by any person in my party attending one of your sporting events. It is hoped that this disrespectful and possibly dangerous activity will be terminated.

Very truly yours,


By (Signed)

Dale O. Cox


Dale O. Cox, Esquire
Roetzel and Andress
20th Floor
One Cascade Plaza
Akron, Ohio 44308

Dear Mr. Cox:

Attached is a letter that we received on November 19, 1974. I feel that you should be aware that some asshole is signing your name to stupid letters.

Very truly yours,


James N. Bailey,
General Counsel

JNB: bjn

cc: Arthur B. Modell

Friday, 11 February 2011

You have something graceful and tender and feminine

When he wrote the following letter in 1966, Marlon Brando was above the Atlantic Ocean flying from New York to London. Also on that plane was the letter's recipient — a senior air stewardess who, having taken care of another passenger following a sudden downturn in health mid-flight, had spent much of the journey sitting directly in front of the enigmatic actor.

She had clearly made an impression. As Brando left the aircraft, he handed her this letter.

Much-needed transcript follows.

(Letter kindly supplied by the lovely folks at Christie's; thanks also to Helen Hall at the wonderful Dig Gallery. Image of Brando via Acid Cow.)

Dear Lady —

There is something not quite definable in your face — something lovely, not pretty in a conventionally thought of way. You have something graceful and tender and feminine (sp). You seem to be a woman who has been loved in her childhood, or else, somehow by the mystery of genetic phenomena you have been visited by the gifts of refinement, dignity and poise. Perhaps you cannot be accredited with all that.

Irrespective of your gothic aspects, you have passed something on in terms of your expression, mien and general comportment that is unusual and rewarding.

It's been a pleasant if brief encounter and I wish you well and I hope we shall have occasion to cross eyes again sometime.

Best wishes

Marlon Brando


Thursday, 10 February 2011


Not a missive per se but close; so close that I'm willing to bend my own rules just this once. This incredibly short story was sent by Arthur C. Clarke to the editor of Analog magazine in March of 1984, along with a short handwritten note on its cover. The humorous 31-word tale - siseneG - was later printed in the publication's May issue.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Heritage Auctions.

This is the only short story I've written in ten years or so.

I think you'll agree that they don't come much shorter.

(Signed, 'Arthur C Clarke')

21 Mar 84

(Appearing in Analog, ? 1984)

© Arthur C Clarke 1984
The Story
Arthur C Clarke

And God said: DELETE lines One to Aleph. LOAD. RUN.
And the Universe ceased to exist.

Then he pondered for a few aeons, sighed, and added: ERASE.
It never had existed.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Grateful Dead has many problems

December 27th, 1967: After many weeks of fruitless and often shambolic recording sessions in studios on both the west and east coasts of the U.S., Warner Bros. Records executive Joe Smith writes a very stern letter to co-manager of the Grateful Dead, Danny Rifkin. In it, he informs Rifkin of the band's frustrating lack of progress and unprofessional attitude during recording of their sophomore album, Anthem of the Sun; even going so far as to label it "the most unreasonable project with which we have ever involved ourselves."

Producer David Hassinger did soon quit the project - apparently the final straw was a request by guitarist Bob Weir to create the illusion of "thick air" in the recording studio - and the album was eventually released in July of '68.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the Grateful Dead.


December 27, 1967

Mr. Danny Rifkin
710 Ashbury Street
San Francisco, California

Dear Danny:

Dave Hassinger is back from his New York trip and the tapes are being sent from New York. We plan to release the LP in February and must have all art work in her almost immediately. There is no time for delays or indecision as we must have the package on the market as quickly as possible.

The recording in New York turned out to be very difficult. Lack of preparation, direction and cooperation from the very beginning have made this album the most unreasonable project with which we have ever involved ourselves.

Your group has many problems, it would appear, and I would believe that Hassinger has no further interest or desire to work with them under conditions similar to this last fiasco. It's apparent that nobody in your organization has enough influence over Phil Lesh to evoke anything resembling normal behaviour. You are now branded as an undesirable group in almost every recording studio in Los Angeles. I haven't got all the New York reports in as yet, but the guys ran through engineers like a steamroller.

It all adds up to a lack of professionalism. The Grateful Dead is not one of the top acts in the business as yet. With their attitudes and their inability to take care of business when it's time to do so would lead us to believe that they never will be truly important. No matter how talented your group is, they're going to have to put something of themselves into the business before they go anywhere.

Recording dates have been firmly fixed for January 3rd and two days thereafter. We expect that you will be on hand to complete this drawn out project and get the art work going. Your artistic control is subject to reasonable restrictions and I believe that the time and expense involved along with your own freedom has been more than reasonable. Now let's get the album out on the streets without anymore fun and games.

Best regards,


Joseph B. Smith

JBS: a

cc: Brian Rohan

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

What Makes Nancy So Great, by Sidney

[Do not read the following if easily offended]

1978. Hugely troubled punk rocker Sid Vicious was 20 years of age when he penned the following affectionate note - a love letter of sorts that simply listed his girlfriend's best qualities - and gave it to Nancy Spungen. Just months later Spungen was stabbed to death, and Vicious was the man suspected of her murder. A heroin overdose killed him before the trial commenced.

I shall warn you again: the note - point 9 specifically - has the potential to offend.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of the lovely Jeff Nolan again, curator of Hard Rock's memorabilia vaults. Follow them on Facebook or be damned.

What Makes Nancy So Great By Sidney

1 Beautiful
2 Sexy
3 Beautiful figure
4 Great sense of humour
5 Makes extremely interesting conversation
6 Witty
7 Has beautiful eyes
8 Has fab taste in clothes
9 Has the most beautiful wet pussy in the world
10 Even has sexy feet
11 Is extremely smart
12 A great Hustler

Monday, 7 February 2011

Mia's Haircut

Mia Farrow, 1965 | Images: IMDbMsinginaction

One morning in 1965, Mia Farrow arrived for work on the set of Peyton Place looking decidedly different: she had, overnight and without warning, chosen to have the majority of her long hair chopped off. To make matters worse for an instantly panicked crew, filming was currently mid-episode. A few days later, with crisis averted following a hasty re-write that saw Farrow's character cut her hair during an amnesia-induced nervous breakdown, the show's producer, Paul Monash, wrote the following cautionary letter of advice to the actress.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Julien's Auctions.

Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation

December 14th, 1965

Dear Mia,

I am writing to you both as a friend and as an employer.

When you came into my office Friday, after cutting your hair, you expected me to be angry with you. I did not show anger, because that seemed pointless; and I didn't really feel anger, because the potential damage was more to you than to me or to the series or to the studio. And that is what I am writing about to you.

It so happens, Mia, that we are able to accomodate the storyline to your action. But it might very well have happened that we could not. In that case, you would have injured all those who depend upon this series. That is something to consider. You have a legal contract with us and a moral contract with all those who work with you. And you have a conscience which tells you both must be kept.

But going beyond that, Mia, and in keeping with my very own feeling for you, I must ask you to consider carefully the effect upon your career should people begin to feel that your impulsiveness can impair productions. This industry, as you know, rightly requires strict disciplines. The strange thing is that you not only are usually very professional but you do have a strong inner discipline on which you can draw. If you fail to draw upon it, as you can, naturally outer disciplines will be imposed, and I would deeply regret that.

I have not lost any of my feeling or regard for you, and I hope that is of some consequence to you. As I said in the office, you are a uniquely beautiful girl-and-woman, and I am not thinking of the way you look but the way you are. I wish that you realize how gifted you have been, how fortunate you are, how fortunate you can remain.

You have in this company and at this studio several people who have deep and good feelings for and about you. You know who they are. Counsel with them, Mia, and keep faith with them.

(Signed, 'Paul Monash')

Friday, 4 February 2011

Darling Goodnight and Goodbye

In 1918, aged just 18, Rattanbai 'Ruttie' Petit converted to Islam and married a man 24 years her senior: then-president of the All-India Muslim League and eventual founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The following few years were blissfully happy for the newlyweds, but a rift soon developed as Jinnah's hectic political life took hold. In 1928, having arrived in Marseilles to receive medical treatment, a gravely ill Ruttie penned the following beautiful farewell letter to her then-estranged husband. Four months later, on her 29th birthday, she lost her battle with cancer.

Transcript follows. Image courtesy of Dr. Ghulam Nabi Kazi.

S. S. Rajputana.
Marseilles 5 Oct 1928.

Darling – thank you for all you have done. If ever in my bearing your over tuned senses found any irritability or unkindness – be assured that in my heart there was place only for a great tenderness and a greater pain – a pain my love without hurt. When one has been as near to the reality of Life – (which after all is Death) as I have been dearest, one only remembers the beautiful and tender moments and all the rest becomes a half veiled mist of unrealities. Try and remember me beloved as the flower you plucked and not the flower you tread upon.

I have suffered much sweetheart because I have loved much. The measure of my agony has been in accord to the measure of my love.

Darling I love you – I love you – and had I loved you just a little less I might have remained with you – only after one has created a very beautiful blossom one does not drag it through the mire. The higher you set your ideal the lower it falls.

I have loved you my darling as it is given to few men to be loved. I only beseech you that our tragedy which commenced with love should also end with it.

– Darling Goodnight and Goodbye


I had written to you at Paris with the intention of posting the letter here – but I felt that I would rather write to you afresh from the fullness of my heart. R.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Love, Buddy

From November of 1956 we have an endearing letter from then-20-year-old Charles Holley; the highly influential performer - better known to most as Buddy Holly - who tragically died in a plane crash exactly 52 years ago, on February 3rd, 1959. The letter was written in Nashville where Buddy and band were recording after recently being signed by Decca Records — Buddy was keeping his parents updated on their progress. "That'll Be the Day" reached the top of the U.S. charts 10 months later.

Transcript follows. Images courtesy of my good friend Jeff Nolan, curator of Hard Rock's ever-increasing memorabilia vaults. Following them on Facebook is recommended.

Dear Mother and Daddy,

Well here it is, Monday night and there's not much to do. We're just sitting "at home" reading. That's what we did last night, too. The convention was going strong all week-end and it seems awfully quiet now. Nearly every singer in the country was here and we met nearly all of them. Elvis wasn't here but Scotty and Bill were and we talked to them a lot. Gene Vincent was here. We met him and he was tickled about it. He said he had one of my records. We met the Governor - Clements - of Tennessee Thursday night. He came over to us and introduced himself.

I talked to Mr. Denny today and he talked to Paul Cohen on the phone. (He's in town but I haven't got to meet him yet) He said he would set up our session just as soon as he could. It may be about 3 or 4 days though, and if it is I'll have to call home for some more money. I wouldn't have but I had to buy a battery for the car. I'll call tomorrow and let you know, although it will probably be yesterday to you (By the time this gets there)

Well that's about all there is to say except that we're doing just fine. A little homesick, though. I guess we'll come home right after the session. See you soon.

Love, Buddy

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.

Author and poet Gertrude Stein had an approach to writing that divided audiences, the unimpressed of whom found her rhythmical repetition and stream-of-consciousness style simply impenetrable and nonsensical. For others, it was, and remains, a breath of fresh air; something unique, to be savoured. In 1912, having just read one of her more repetitive manuscripts, The Making of Americans, publisher Arthur C. Fifield rejected Stein with this wonderful, light-hearted letter that perfectly mimicked the technique for which she was famous.

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


April 19, 1912.

Dear Madam,

I am only one, only one, only one. Only one being, one at the same time. Not two, not three, only one. Only one life to live, only sixty minutes in one hour. Only one pair of eyes. Only one brain. Only one being. Being only one, having only one pair of eyes, having only one time, having only one life, I cannot read your M.S. three or four times. Not even one time. Only one look, only one look is enough. Hardly one copy would sell here. Hardly one. Hardly one.

Many thanks. I am returning the M.S. by registered post. Only one M.S. by one post.

Sincerely yours,

(Signed 'A. C. Fifield')

Miss Gertrude Stein,
27 Rue de Fleurus,