Wednesday, 26 June 2013

A squeal of pain



Prominent English novelist Vita Sackville-West’s marriage to Sir Harold Nicolson was the very definition of an open one, with both partners happily enjoying extramarital relationships for much of the 49 years they spent together. In the early-1920s, Vita began what was to be her most famous affair, with Virginia Woolf, the hugely influential author responsible for such classics as Mrs Dalloway and Orlando, the latter of which was based, in part, on Vita’s life.

In January of 1926, Vita reluctantly departed London to join her husband, then a diplomat working in Persia, for four long months; on the 21st, as she travelled by train, she wrote a longing letter to the lover she had left behind.

(Source: The Letters of Vita Sackville-West to Virginia Woolf; Photo of Virginia and Vita in 1933, taken by Leonard Woolf, via.)

January 21

Milan

I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia. I composed a beautiful letter to you in the sleepless nightmare hours of the night, and it has all gone: I just miss you, in a quite simple desperate human way. You, with all your un-dumb letters, would never write so elementary a phrase as that; perhaps you wouldn't even feel it. And yet I believe you'll be sensible of a little gap. But you'd clothe it in so exquisite a phrase that it would lose a little of its reality. Whereas with me it is quite stark: I miss you even more than I could have believed; and I was prepared to miss you a good deal. So this letter is just really a squeal of pain. It is incredible how essential to me you have become. I suppose you are accustomed to people saying these things. Damn you, spoilt creature; I shan't make you love me any the more by giving myself away like this—But oh my dear, I can't be clever and stand-offish with you: I love you too much for that. Too truly. You have no idea how stand-offish I can be with people I don't love. I have brought it to a fine art. But you have broken down my defences. And I don't really resent it.

However I won't bore you with any more.

We have re-started, and the train is shaky again. I shall have to write at the stations - which are fortunately many across the Lombard plain.

Venice. The stations were many, but I didn't bargain for the Orient Express not stopping at them. And here we are at Venice for ten minutes only,—a wretched time in which to try and write. No time to buy an Italian stamp even, so this will have to go from Trieste.

The waterfalls in Switzerland were frozen into solid iridescent curtains of ice, hanging over the rock; so lovely. And Italy all blanketed in snow.

We're going to start again. I shall have to wait till Trieste tomorrow morning. Please forgive me for writing such a miserable letter.

V.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Let us blaze new trails



Bill Bernbach was one of the original Mad Men. A real-life Don Draper. One of the greats. In May of 1947, at which point he was 35 years of age and Creative Director at Grey Advertising on Fifth Avenue, he noticed a worrying development: as the agency grew in size, they were in danger of losing their creative spark—they were, he believed, falling victim to "bigness." Fearing the worst, he wrote a warning letter to the owners of Grey that has since become famous in the industry and a reminder that often it is best to think small.

Two years after writing it, with his advice largely ignored, Bernbach left Grey New York to co-found the hugely successful agency, Doyle Dane Bernbach.

(Source: Perspectives in Advertising Management (1969); Image: Bill Bernbach, via Bill.)

5/15/47

Dear ___________ :

Our agency is getting big. That’s something to be happy about. But it’s something to worry about, too, and I don’t mind telling you I’m damned worried. I’m worried that we’re going to fall into the trap of bigness, that we’re going to worship techniques instead of substance, that we’re going to follow history instead of making it, that we’re going to be drowned by superficialities instead of buoyed up by solid fundamentals. I’m worried lest hardening of the creative arteries begin to set in.

There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules. They can tell you that people in an ad will get you greater readership. They can tell you that a sentence should be this short or that long. They can tell you that body copy should be broken up for easier reading. They can give you fact after fact after fact. They are the scientists of advertising. But there’s one little rub. Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art.

It’s that creative spark that I’m so jealous of for our agency and that I am so desperately fearful of losing. I don’t want academicians. I don’t want scientists. I don’t want people who do the right things. I want people who do inspiring things.

In the past year I must have interviewed about 80 people – writers and artists. Many of them were from the so-called giants of the agency field. It was appalling to see how few of these people were genuinely creative. Sure, they had advertising know-how. Yes, they were up on advertising technique.

But look beneath the technique and what did you find? A sameness, a mental weariness, a mediocrity of ideas. But they could defend every ad on the basis that it obeyed the rules of advertising. It was like worshiping a ritual instead of the God.

All this is not to say that technique is unimportant. Superior technical skill will make a good ad better. But the danger is a preoccupation with technical skill or the mistaking of technical skill for creative ability. The danger lies in the temptation to buy routinized men who have a formula for advertising. The danger lies In the natural tendency to go after tried-and-true talent that will not make us stand out in competition but rather make us look like all the others.

If we are to advance we must emerge as a distinctive personality. We must develop our own philosophy and not have the advertising philosophy of others imposed on us.

Let us blaze new trails. Let us prove to the world that good taste, good art, and good writing can be good selling.

Respectfully,
Bill Bernbach

Friday, 14 June 2013

Grow up as good revolutionaries



In 1955, Argentinean-born Che Guevara met Fidel Castro and quickly joined his efforts to oust Fulgencio Batista as leader of Cuba — a revolution in which he would go on to play a major role and which would lead to Guevara becoming Finance Minister under Castro’s rule. By 1965, Guevara was keen to spread his revolutionary ideas: he began by travelling to the Congo where he unsuccessfully attempted to train rebel forces in the area; he then moved on to Bolivia, where he was ultimately captured by the Bolivian army and later, in 1967, executed on the orders of President RenĂ© Barrientos.

Before he left for Bolivia, Guevara secretly visited his wife back in Cuba and gave her a letter, to be read by his five children in the event of his death; the next year, he wrote a similar letter just for his eldest daughter, Hilda. Both are below.

(Source: Narod.ru; Image: Che and some of the family, via.)

[1965]

To my children

Dear Hildita, Aleidita, Camilo, Celia, And Ernesto,

If you ever have to read this letter, it will be because I am no longer with you. You practically will not remember me, and the smaller ones will not remember me at all.

Your father has been a man who acted on his beliefs and has certainly been loyal to his convictions.

Grow up as good revolutionaries. Study hard so that you can master technology, which allows us to master nature. Remember that the revolution is what is important, and each one of us, alone is worth nothing.

Above all, always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world. This is the most beautiful quality in a revolutionary.

Until forever, my children. I still hope to see you.

A great big kiss and a big hug from,

Papa

--------------------

February 15. 1966

Dearest Hildita,

I am writing you now, although you’ll receive this letter much later. But I want you to know that I am thinking about you and I hope you’re having a very happy birthday. You are almost a woman now, and I cannot write to you the way I write to the little ones, telling them silly things or little fibs.

You must know that I am still far away and will be gone for quite some time, doing what I can to fight against our enemies. Not that it is a great thing, but I am doing something, and I think you will always be proud of your father, as I am of you.

Remember, there are many years of struggle ahead, and even when you are a woman, you will have to do your part in the struggle. Meanwhile, you have to prepare yourself, be very revolutionary-which at your age means to learn a lot, as much as possible, and always be ready to support just causes. Also, obey your mother and don’t think that you know it all too soon. That will come in time.

You should fight to be among the best in school. The best in every sense, and you already know what that means; study and revolutionary attitude. In other words: good conduct, seriousness, love for the revolution, comradeship, etc.

I was not that way at your age, but I lived in a different society, where man was an enemy of man. Now you have the privilege of living in another era and you must be worthy of it.

Don’t forget to go by the house to keep an eye on the other kids and advise them to study and behave themselves. Especially Aleldita, who pays a lot of attention to you as her older sister.

All right, old lady. Again I hope you are very happy on your birthday. Give a hug to your mother and to Gina. I give you a great big strong one to last as long as we don’t see each other.

Your Papa

Thursday, 13 June 2013

I am Danny DeVito's mother



In 1973, at the very beginning of Danny DeVito's Hollywood career, he was cast in Scalawag—a largely forgotten movie directed by, and starring, Kirk Douglas which received, at best, lukewarm reviews upon release. No-one was prouder of the film, however, than DeVito's mother, Julia, and soon after watching it she sent an endearing letter to Douglas to thank him for casting her son. Julia passed away in 1987; the next year, Kirk Douglas reprinted her charming letter in his autobiography. In 1991, Danny DeVito read it aloud to an audience of hundreds as the AFI Life Achievement Award was awarded to Douglas. Footage can be found below, immediately after a transcript of the original letter as printed in Douglas' book.

(Source: The Ragman's Son; Image above: Danny DeVito & his mother in Taxi, Season 4 Episode 7.)

Transcript
Dear Mr. & Mrs. Douglas:

I am Danny DeVito's mother, writing to thank you both for giving my son a part in your movie, "Scallywag." My family all went to see it at the Paramount in N.Y.C. it was a great movie. Some of my friends & relatives saw it in Florida, they called me up to-day, to tell me that Danny was great they liked his acting, so that made me feel so proud. Half of Asbury Park N.J. are waiting for it to come here. My daughter owns a Beauty Salon in Neptune N.J. & has a sign in it: "Scallywag Coming Soon." You see there is plenty of publicity out here.

Love to your son Michael, he spent a weekend at our house & we all love him & we also watch the Streets of San Francisco on Thursday nights.

Again, I want to thank you both for giving my son a part in your movie. It's great to have a part with a big star like you.

Sincerely Yours,
Mrs. Dan DeVito