Torturing the Saxophone

In 2014, celebrated Swedish free jazz saxophonist Mats Gustafsson sent a copy of his forthcoming album to one of his idols, the legendary comic book artist, record collector and musician Robert Crumb. Gustafsson’s upcoming record was a compilation of his experimental interpretations of some jazz classics by people such as Duke Ellington, Lars Gullin, and

Your road manager needs a POKE

In March of 1966, as their Australian tour came to an end, a few members of The Rolling Stones — Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts — decided to unwind by taking a short break in Fiji. It was during that visit, and due in no small part to a flippant remark made by their

I have not shot her yet

In 1927, the year after her first collection of poetry, Enough Rope, was published to rave reviews, the eternally sarcastic and rightly celebrated satirist, critic, and founding member of the Algonquin Round Table, Dorothy Parker, found herself in hospital suffering from exhaustion—a condition brought on, in part, by a turbulent affair with American publisher Seward

I am desperate to have some real fun

In January 1960, 9 years and 250 episodes after first being introduced to a baffled but delighted audience, The Goon Show’s final installment was broadcast on BBC radio, much to the dismay of its many fans. Written chiefly by Spike Milligan, the show’s 10 series had been a surreal mixture of sketches, music and general

Regarding your dam complaint

In December of 1997, as a result of an official complaint from a neighbour, a Michigan resident named Stephen Tvedten received, indirectly, a stern warning from the region’s Department of Environmental Quality in the form of a letter—a letter in which he was given six weeks to remove two “unauthorized” and “hazardous” dams from the

Oh my ass burns like fire!

When he wasn’t busy composing some of the most beautiful music ever to seduce the human ear, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart could often be found writing shockingly crude letters to his family. The fine example below (translated by Robert Spaethling) was penned to Mozart’s 19-year-old cousin and possible love interest,

Oh Christ, the cook is dead

In February of 1977, a well-meaning teacher named Stephen Gard wrote to Spike Milligan after reading Monty, the third installment of Spike’s memoirs which focused on his life as a soldier in World War II, and asked some questions about the book. Says Stephen: “My letter was written as a fan, but it did ask

My mother declared my bedroom a disaster area

As one would expect, Ronald Reagan was the recipient of thousands of letters each month during his presidency–a mailbag so voluminous, in fact, that a gang of patient volunteers were tasked with opening them all on his behalf and passing him approximately 30 each week to read and respond to. This is just one example,

Ought women not to be abolished altogether?

On March 28th of 1912, an eminent bacteriologist named Almroth Wright wrote a lengthy, pompous letter to The Times in which he argued that women should not be allowed to vote, and in fact should be kept away from politics altogether, due to their supposed psychological and physiological deficiencies. Unsurprisingly his opinion generated many responses, the best

Bill Hicks on Freedom of Speech

As an outspoken stand-up comedian with strong, unbending views on the most divisive of subjects, the late-Bill Hicks was no stranger to controversy during his all-too-brief career. In May of 1993, less than a year before he succumbed to pancreatic cancer at the age of 32, a live recording of Hicks’ Revelations show was broadcast

Happy Birthday, Dickens

Image: Charles Dickens, via Lenin Imports Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of someone who, hopefully, needs no introduction: Charles Dickens — a man who wrote so many letters (some 15’000 have survived) it’s a wonder he ever found time to write the novels he did. Last month I featured the bleakest of letters, in

To the next Burglar

As he slept upstairs on September 8th of 1908, two young burglars entered Mark Twain‘s home, took an entire sideboard into the garden and proceeded to break it open. They were eventually caught by police with a stash of silverware. The next day, with the help of an aspiring young artist named Dorothy Sturgis, Twain

Aida will gather dust in the archives

In May of 1872, having recently travelled twice to watch Aida, a disappointed Italian gentleman named Prospero Bertani decided to write a letter of complaint to the opera’s composer, Verdi, and ask for his money back; not just for the show, but for his expenses too. Amused, Verdi responded by forwarding the letter to his

Everyone has to be a child

Back in 1998, The Economist ran an article which resulted in a record amount of feedback for its author. The subject at hand was children: For children, just like cigarettes or mobile phones, clearly impose a negative externality on people who are near them. Anybody who has suffered a 12-hour flight with a bawling baby

It’s more likely that I was doing 911km/h

When Auckland resident Justin Lee received the above speeding ticket back in 2004, he noticed a typo: according to said notice, the infringement in question had taken place 30 years beforehand, in 1974, on the day he was born. His entertaining response can be read below, followed by the subsequent reply from the New Zealand Police. Transcript

SEVEN LITTLE MEN HELP A GIRL

When, in early-1986, Disney executives decided to change the title of their upcoming animated feature from ‘Basil of Baker Street’ to the less ambiguous ‘The Great Mouse Detective‘, its production team were less than pleased. One animator in particular, Ed Gombert, harnessed his displeasure to comical effect by creating, and circulating, the following: a fake memo

I have just written you a long letter

The late, great Lt. Col. Alfred D. Wintle was opinionated, brave, comical, intelligent, and, most importantly, hugely entertaining. A true “character.” He once attempted to escape a hospital dressed as a female nurse in order to rejoin the war effort, but his monocle gave him away; as a prisoner of war in France during World War

On bureaucratese and gobbledygook

As a result of his influential stint as chairman of the now-defunct Civil Aeronautics Board in the 1970s, economist Alfred Kahn rightly became known as the “Father of Deregulation.” However, he also made a lasting impression on many due to the wider publication — initially in the Washington Star, and then the Post — of the following internal

Seat 29E

Mid-flight on December 21st, 2004, a Continental Airlines passenger — “disgusted” with the location of his seat due to its proximity to the lavatory — humorously wrote the following letter of complaint to the airline’s headquarters. The now-famous letter, complete with illustrations and vivid descriptions of the passenger’s stench-filled discomfort, found its way onto the

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

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

The Tiger Oil Memos

From the offices of the now-defunct but at one time Houston-based Tiger Oil Company come a batch of curiously entertaining memos, all sent by the firm’s irascible, tactless, and undeniably amusing CEO, Edward “Tiger Mike” Davis, to his staff. Tiger Mike’s management style was no secret within the industry; however, in the early-2000s, 25 years

A Personal Letter From Steve Martin

Celebrities are faced with a dilemma as their star ascends: the fan mail that used to trickle to the front door now needs its own home, and replying to those messages of support is suddenly a full-time job of its own. A small few battle on valiantly, determined to respond personally to each and every

SAY YES I NEED A JOB

In 1989, at the end of a disastrous telephone interview in which he alluded to playing pirated versions of their games, Tim Schafer was advised by David Fox to send in his resume and a covering letter relating to the role of Assistant Programmer/Designer at LucasArts (at the time still named Lucasfilm). Schafer, in an

The Ax

On November 30th, 1954, a character by the name of Charlotte Braun made her debut in the much-loved comic strip, Peanuts. Loud, brash and opinionated, “Good Ol’ Charlotte Braun” quickly annoyed the strip’s readers and on February 1st, 1955 — after just 10 sightings — she appeared in a storyline for the last time. 45

We all feel like that now and then

At the height of World War II on April 6th, 1943, the British Ambassador to Moscow, Sir Archibald Clark Kerr, wrote a letter to Foreign Office minister Lord Reginald Pembroke in an effort to simply brighten up his day–a letter which has since become a classic piece of correspondence for reasons that will soon become

And don’t get me started on the Scoutmasters

To conclude today’s child-centric trio of letters, I present to you a beautifully observant, expertly written complaint from a schoolboy by the name of Richard Millington which verges on comedy gold. The letter was sent to President Kennedy in February of 1963, just a few years after the U.S. government introduced the President’s Council on

P.S. This is my favorite memo ever

Ever since it first aired on television in 1997, Matt Stone and Trey Parker’s hugely popular animated comedy, South Park, has courted controversy due to its crude jokes, deliberate lack of tact, and the creators’ steadfast refusal to self-censor or bow to external pressures. However, two years after the show debuted, a feature length film