Watch Brian Cox of “Succession” Read Hunter S. Thompson’s Profanity-Laden Letter

Bri­an Cox has maneu­vered over four decades of act­ing while remain­ing a bit anony­mous from one role to the next. Or at least that was the case until his star turn as Logan Roy, the sten­to­ri­an patri­arch at the cen­ter of HBO’s Suc­ces­sion. Now it is hard to sep­a­rate Cox from his char­ac­ter. His way of deliv­er­ing the deli­cious insults of the show’s scripts are both fright­en­ing and hilarious–as is his way of punc­tu­at­ing a scene with two sim­ple words: “Fuc& Off.”

Look, we try to keep swear­ing to a min­i­mum on this site, but Cox does won­ders with that phrase. Just watch one of the many super­cuts of Logan Roy say­ing it, and hear a mas­ter at work.

So the clip above, from a UK event series called Let­ters Live, shows why Cox is a per­fect fit to read Hunter S. Thompson’s let­ter to a cer­tain Dave Allen, direc­tor of pro­gram­ming at the writer’s local net­work affil­i­ate, KREX-TV. Allen had tak­en the CBS news off the local sta­tion, and Thomp­son was hav­ing none of it.

Thomp­son wrote many blis­ter­ing, pro­fan­i­ty-laden let­ters from his Col­orado home. The above was col­lect­ed in Hunter S. Thomp­son, Fear and Loathing in Amer­i­ca: The Bru­tal Odyssey of an Out­law Jour­nal­ist (Gonzo Let­ters, Vol­ume II, 1968–1976). Allen joins a list of recip­i­ents of Thompson’s ven­om that includes his edi­tor at Ran­dom House, Loren Jenk­ins of Newsweek, Paul Gor­man of WBAI-FM, and many oth­ers, most of whom owed him mon­ey for this or that writ­ing assign­ment.

Let­ters Live keeps its epis­tles short, and Bri­an Cox acts out Thompson’s short note, pour­ing con­tempt through every turn of phrase.

The pro­jec­t’s YouTube chan­nel offers many oth­er let­ters from his­to­ry, read by actors like Olivia Cole­man, Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, Stephen Fry, Matt Berry, Carey Mul­li­gan, Gillian Ander­son, Ian McK­ellen, and many more. It’s worth check­ing out, espe­cial­ly if his­tor­i­cal swear­ing is your thing.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hunter S. Thomp­son Writes a Blis­ter­ing, Over-the-Top Let­ter to Antho­ny Burgess (1973)

Hunter S. Thomp­son Calls Tech Sup­port, Unleash­es a Tirade Full of Fear and Loathing (NSFW)

Shake­speare­an Actor Bri­an Cox Teach­es Hamlet’s Solil­o­quy to a 2‑Year-Old Child

The His­to­ry of Ancient Greece in 18 Min­utes: A Brisk Primer Nar­rat­ed by Bri­an Cox

The Scotch Pro­nun­ci­a­tion Guide: Bri­an Cox Teach­es You How To Ask Authen­ti­cal­ly for 40 Scotch­es

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the Notes from the Shed pod­cast and is the pro­duc­er of KCR­W’s Curi­ous Coast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, and/or watch his films here.

Benedict Cumberbatch Reads “the Best Cover Letter Ever Written”

In the 1930s, many a writer jour­neyed to Hol­ly­wood in order to make his for­tune. The screen­writer’s life did­n’t sit well with some of them — just ask F. Scott Fitzger­ald or William Faulkn­er — but a fair few made more than a go of it out West. Take the Bal­ti­more-born Robert Pirosh, whose stud­ies at the Sor­bonne and the Uni­ver­si­ty of Berlin land­ed him a job as a copy­writer in New York. This work seems to have proven less than sat­is­fac­to­ry, as evi­denced by the piece of cor­re­spon­dence that, still in his ear­ly twen­ties, he wrote and sent to “as many direc­tors, pro­duc­ers and stu­dio exec­u­tives as he could find.” It was­n’t just a request for work; it was what Let­ters Live today calls “the best cov­er let­ter ever writ­ten.”

Pirosh’s impres­sive mis­sive, which you can hear read aloud by favorite Let­ters Live per­former Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch in the video above, runs, in full, as fol­lows:

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat but­tery words, such as ooze, turpi­tude, gluti­nous, toady. I like solemn, angu­lar, creaky words, such as strait­laced, can­tan­ker­ous, pecu­nious, vale­dic­to­ry. I like spu­ri­ous, black-is-white words, such as mor­ti­cian, liq­ui­date, ton­so­r­i­al, demi-monde. I like suave “V” words, such as Sven­gali, svelte, bravu­ra, verve. I like crunchy, brit­tle, crack­ly words, such as splin­ter, grap­ple, jos­tle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowl­ing words, such as skulk, glow­er, scab­by, churl. I like Oh-Heav­ens, my-gra­cious, land’s‑sake words, such as tricksy, tuck­er, gen­teel, hor­rid. I like ele­gant, flow­ery words, such as esti­vate, pere­gri­nate, ely­si­um, hal­cy­on. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blub­ber, squeal, drip. I like snig­gly, chuck­ling words, such as cowlick, gur­gle, bub­ble and burp.

I like the word screen­writer bet­ter than copy­writer, so I decid­ed to quit my job in a New York adver­tis­ing agency and try my luck in Hol­ly­wood, but before tak­ing the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, con­tem­pla­tion and hors­ing around.

I have just returned and I still like words.

May I have a few with you?

Though not known as an unsub­tle actor, Cum­ber­batch seizes the oppor­tu­ni­ty to deliv­er each and every one of these choice words with its own vari­ety of exag­ger­at­ed rel­ish. Though none of these terms is espe­cial­ly recher­ché on its own, they must col­lec­tive­ly have giv­en the impres­sion of a for­mi­da­ble mas­tery of the Eng­lish lan­guage, espe­cial­ly to the ear of the aver­age Hol­ly­wood big-shot. One way or anoth­er, Pirosh’s let­ter did the trick: accord­ing to Let­ters of Note, it “secured him three inter­views, one of which led to his job as a junior writer at MGM. Fif­teen years lat­er,” he “won an Acad­e­my Award for Best Orig­i­nal Screen­play for his work on the war film Bat­tle­ground.”

A World War II pic­ture, Bat­tle­ground was writ­ten at least in part from Pirosh’s own expe­ri­ence: a few years into his Hol­ly­wood career, he enlist­ed and made a return to Europe, this time as a Mas­ter Sergeant in the 320th Reg­i­ment, 35th Infantry Divi­sion, see­ing action in France and Ger­many. After the war he went right back to writ­ing and pro­duc­ing, remain­ing active in the enter­tain­ment indus­try until at least the 1970s (and in fact, his writ­ing cred­its include con­tri­bu­tions to such pro­grams that defined that decade as Man­nixBarn­a­by Jones, and Hawaii Five‑O). Pirosh’s was an envi­able 20th-cen­tu­ry career, and one that began with a suit­ably brazen — and still con­vinc­ing — 20th-cen­tu­ry adver­tise­ment for him­self.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hunter S. Thompson’s Ball­sy Job Appli­ca­tion Let­ter (1958)

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Incensed Let­ter to the High School That Burned Slaugh­ter­house-Five

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Let­ter of Advice to Peo­ple Liv­ing in the Year 2088

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads a Let­ter Alan Tur­ing Wrote in “Dis­tress” Before His Con­vic­tion For “Gross Inde­cen­cy”

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads Albert Camus’ Touch­ing Thank You Let­ter to His Ele­men­tary School Teacher

“Stop It and Just DO”: Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads Advice on Over­com­ing Cre­ative Blocks, Writ­ten by Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse (1965)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Benedict Cumberbatch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Letter of Advice to People Living in the Year 2088

A few years ago we post­ed Kurt Von­negut’s let­ter of advice to human­i­ty, writ­ten in 1988 but addressed, a cen­tu­ry hence, to the year 2088. What­ev­er objec­tions you may have felt to read­ing this mis­sive more than 70 years pre­ma­ture­ly, you might have over­come them to find that the author of Slaugh­ter­house-Five and Break­fast of Cham­pi­ons sin­gle-mind­ed­ly impor­tuned his fel­low man of the late 21st cen­tu­ry to pro­tect the nat­ur­al envi­ron­ment. He issues com­mand­ments to “reduce and sta­bi­lize your pop­u­la­tion” to “stop prepar­ing for war and start deal­ing with your real prob­lems,” and to “stop think­ing sci­ence can fix any­thing if you give it a tril­lion dol­lars,” among oth­er poten­tial­ly dras­tic-sound­ing mea­sures.

Com­mand­ment num­ber sev­en amounts to the high­ly Von­negut­ian “And so on. Or else.” A fan can eas­i­ly imag­ine these words spo­ken in the writer’s own voice, but with Von­negut now gone for well over a decade, would you accept them spo­ken in the voice of Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch instead?

First com­mis­sioned by Volk­swa­gen for a Time mag­a­zine ad cam­paign, Von­negut’s let­ter to 2088 was lat­er found and repub­lished by Let­ters of Note. The asso­ci­at­ed Let­ters Live project, which brings notable let­ters to the stage (and sub­se­quent­ly inter­net video), counts Cum­ber­batch as one of its star read­ers: he’s giv­en voice to wise cor­re­spon­dence by the likes of Sol LeWitt, Albert Camus, and Alan Tur­ing.

Cum­ber­batch even has expe­ri­ence with let­ters by Von­negut, hav­ing pre­vi­ous­ly read aloud his rebuke to a North Dako­ta school board that allowed the burn­ing of Slaugh­ter­house-Five. Von­negut’s work makes clear that he did­n’t suf­fer fools glad­ly, and that he con­sid­ered book-burn­ing one of the infi­nite vari­eties of fol­ly he spent his career cat­a­loging. In light of his let­ter to 2088, the same went for human­i­ty’s poor stew­ard­ship of their plan­et. Von­negut may not have been a con­ser­va­tion­ist, exact­ly, but nor, in his view, was nature itself, a force that needs “no help from us in tak­ing the plan­et apart and putting it back togeth­er some dif­fer­ent way, not nec­es­sar­i­ly improv­ing it from the view­point of liv­ing things.” This is, of course, the per­son­i­fy­ing view of a nov­el­ist, but a nov­el­ist who nev­er for­got his sense of humor — nor his ten­den­cy to play the prophet of doom.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads Kurt Vonnegut’s Incensed Let­ter to the High School That Burned Slaugh­ter­house-Five

The Graph­ic Nov­el Adap­ta­tion of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaugh­ter­house-Five

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads a Let­ter Alan Tur­ing Wrote in “Dis­tress” Before His Con­vic­tion For “Gross Inde­cen­cy”

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads Albert Camus’ Touch­ing Thank You Let­ter to His Ele­men­tary School Teacher

“Stop It and Just DO”: Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch Reads Advice on Over­com­ing Cre­ative Blocks, Writ­ten by Sol LeWitt to Eva Hesse (1965)

Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, Mar­garet Atwood, Stephen Fry & Oth­ers Read Let­ters of Hope, Love & Sup­port Dur­ing COVID-19

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Langston Hughes’ Homemade Christmas Cards From 1950

Who doesn’t trea­sure a hand­made present?

As the years go by, we may begin to offload the ill-fit­ting sweaters, the nev­er lit sand cast can­dles, and the Sty­ro­foam ball snow­men. But a present made of words takes up very lit­tle space, and it has the Ghost of Christ­mas Past’s pow­er to instant­ly evoke the sender as they once were.

Sev­en­ty years ago, poet Langston Hugh­es, too skint to go Christ­mas shop­ping, sent every­one on his gift list sim­ple, home­made hol­i­day post­cards. Typed on white card­stock, each signed card was embell­ished with red and green pen­cils and mailed for the price of a 3¢ stamp.

As biog­ra­ph­er Arnold Ram­per­sad notes:

The last weeks of 1950 found him nev­er­the­less in a melan­choly mood, his spir­its sink­ing low­er again as he again became a tar­get of red-bait­ing.

The year start­ed aus­pi­cious­ly with The New York Times prais­ing his libret­to for The Bar­ri­er, an opera based on his play, Mulat­to: A Tragedy of the Deep South. But the opera was a com­mer­cial flop, and pos­i­tive reviews for his book Sim­ple Speaks His Mind failed to trans­late into the hoped-for sales.

Although he had recent­ly pur­chased an East Harlem brown­stone with an old­er cou­ple who dot­ed on him as they would a son, pro­vid­ing him with a sun­ny, top floor work­space, 1950 was far from his favorite year.

His type­writ­ten hol­i­day cou­plets took things out on a jaun­ty note, while pay­ing light lip ser­vice to his plight.

Maybe we can aspire to the same…

Hugh­es’ hand­made hol­i­day cards reside in the Langston Hugh­es Papers in Yale’s Bei­necke Rare Book and Man­u­script Library, along with hol­i­day cards spe­cif­ic to the African-Amer­i­can expe­ri­ence received from friends and asso­ciates.

via the Bei­necke Rare Book and Man­u­script Library at Yale Uni­ver­si­ty

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Langston Hugh­es Reads Langston Hugh­es

A Sim­ple, Down-to-Earth Christ­mas Card from the Great Depres­sion (1933)

Hear Neil Gaiman Read A Christ­mas Car­ol Just as Dick­ens Read It

How Joni Mitchell’s Song of Heart­break, “Riv­er,” Became a Christ­mas Clas­sic

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Her lat­est alter ego, L’Ourse, wish­es you a very mer­ry Xmas and peace and health in the New Year  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Hear Readings of Albert Einstein’s Love Letters (and Chilly Divorce Letters) to His First Wife Mileva

Beware the fake quo­ta­tion. They have become so ubiq­ui­tous they often appear in books and speech­es by politi­cians and their fam­i­ly mem­bers, not that any­one seems to care much. But most of us feel a mea­sure of shame at being duped, as Katharine Rose did when she found her­self moved by a let­ter sup­pos­ed­ly writ­ten by Albert Ein­stein to his daugh­ter, Lieserl, “regard­ing the ‘uni­ver­sal force’ of love.” The let­ter is a “beau­ti­ful read,” and it’s a fake. But many admir­ers of Ein­stein were eager to believe it.

Why? Like oth­er famous fig­ures to whom spu­ri­ous words are attrib­uted, Ein­stein isn’t just well-known, he is revered, a celebri­ty, and celebri­ties are peo­ple we feel we know inti­mate­ly. (A com­mon defense for fake-quote-shar­ing goes: “Well, if he didn’t say it, then it’s exact­ly the kind of thing he would say.”) Dis­cussing the theft of Einstein’s brain after his death, Ross Ander­son at Aeon observes that “an ordi­nary per­son can live and die pri­vate­ly, but a genius—and his grey matter—belongs to the world.” We might add, “and so do the inti­mate details of his pri­vate life.”

The details of Einstein’s mar­riage, and of his very unpleas­ant sep­a­ra­tion and divorce, from Mil­e­va Mar­ić have long been pub­lic knowl­edge. “Few pub­lic mar­riages have been sub­ject­ed to a more unnu­anced ver­dict,” Maria Popo­va writes at Brain Pick­ings. Their love let­ters first came to light in 1986, dis­cov­ered by Einstein’s grand­daugh­ter Eve­lyn. They were pub­lished in 1992 as The Love Let­ters, “a col­lec­tion of fifty-four mis­sives exchanged between the begin­ning of their romance” when they met as stu­dents in 1897 to their mar­riage in 1903. Dozens more are avail­able at Prince­ton Uni­ver­si­ty’s online col­lec­tion of Ein­stein’s papers.

The let­ters are real, and they are “spicy,” as YouTu­ber Tibees shows us in the video at the top. No awk­ward pri­vate expres­sion is safe: we begin with let­ters Ein­stein wrote to his high school girl­friend, Marie Win­tel­er, includ­ing a breakup let­ter at 3:13. The excerpts here are all time­stamped on the video’s YouTube page, with help­ful sum­maries like “Einstein’s mom try­ing to break them up” (them being Albert and Mil­e­va), “Ein­stein hav­ing an affair with his cousin Elsa,” “Break­ing up with Elsa,” and “Get­ting back with Elsa.”

Elsa, you may know, was Einstein’s sec­ond wife, in addi­tion to being his cousin, and the cause of his sep­a­ra­tion and divorce from Mil­e­va, to whom he had pro­fessed undy­ing devo­tion. In the inter­est of ful­ly invad­ing the genius’s pri­va­cy, we have, above, some read­ings of his harsh “divorce let­ters” to Mil­e­va, with hits like “Sep­a­ra­tion,” “Propos­ing divorce,” and “Court pro­ceed­ings.” Love may or may not be a “uni­ver­sal force”—we do not, sad­ly, have Einstein’s thoughts on the matter—but we do know he found it a trou­bling­ly chaot­ic, unpre­dictable one.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Albert Ein­stein Impos­es on His First Wife a Cru­el List of Mar­i­tal Demands

Hear Albert Ein­stein Read “The Com­mon Lan­guage of Sci­ence” (1941)

Albert Ein­stein Explains Why We Need to Read the Clas­sics

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Frida Kahlo’s Venomous Love Letter to Diego Rivera: “I’m Amputating You. Be Happy and Never Seek Me Again”

Painter Diego Rivera set the bar awful­ly high for oth­er lovers when he—allegedly—ate a hand­ful of his ex-wife Fri­da Kahlo’s cre­mains, fresh from the oven.

Per­haps he was hedg­ing his bets. The Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment opt­ed not to hon­or his express wish that their ash­es should be co-min­gled upon his death. Kahlo’s remains were placed in Mex­i­co City’s Rotun­da of Illus­tri­ous Men, and have since been trans­ferred to their home, now the Museo Fri­da Kahlo.

Rivera lies in the Pan­teón Civ­il de Dolores.

Oth­er cre­ative expres­sions of the grief that dogged him til his own death, three years lat­er:

His final paint­ing, The Water­mel­ons, a very Mex­i­can sub­ject that’s also a trib­ute to Kahlo’s last work, Viva La Vida

And a locked bath­room in which he decreed 6,000 pho­tographs, 300 of Kahlo’s gar­ments and per­son­al items, and 12,000 doc­u­ments were to be housed until 15 years after his death.

Among the many rev­e­la­tions when this cham­ber was belat­ed­ly unsealed in 2004, her cloth­ing caused the biggest stir, par­tic­u­lar­ly the ways in which the col­or­ful gar­ments were adapt­ed to and informed by her phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties.

Her pros­thet­ic leg, shod in an eye-catch­ing red boot was giv­en a place of hon­or in an exhib­it at the Vic­to­ria and Albert Muse­um.,

These trea­sures might have come to light ear­li­er save for a judg­ment call on the part of Dolores Olme­do, Rivera’s patron, for­mer mod­el, and friend. Dur­ing ren­o­va­tions to turn the couple’s home into a muse­um, she had a peek and decid­ed the lip­stick-imprint­ed love let­ters from some famous men Fri­da had bed­ded could dam­age Rivera’s rep­u­ta­tion.

In what way, it’s dif­fi­cult to parse.

The couple’s his­to­ry of extra­mar­i­tal rela­tions (includ­ing Rivera’s dal­liance with Kahlo’s sis­ter, Christi­na) weren’t exact­ly secret, and both of the play­ers had left the build­ing.

One thing that’s tak­en for grant­ed is Kahlo’s pas­sion for Rivera, whom she met as girl of 15. Tempt­ing as it might be to view the rela­tion­ship with 2020 gog­gles, it would be a dis­ser­vice to Kahlo’s sense of her own nar­ra­tive. Self-exam­i­na­tion was cen­tral to her work. She was char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly avid in let­ters and diary entries, detail­ing her phys­i­cal attrac­tion to every aspect of Rivera’s body, includ­ing his giant bel­ly “drawn tight and smooth as a sphere.” Dit­to her obses­sion with his many con­quests.

Not sur­pris­ing­ly, she was capa­ble of pen­ning a pret­ty spicy love let­ter her­self, and the major­i­ty were aimed at her hus­band:

Noth­ing com­pares to your hands, noth­ing like the green-gold of your eyes. My body is filled with you for days and days. you are the mir­ror of the night. the vio­lent flash of light­ning. The damp­ness of the earth. The hol­low of your armpits is my shel­ter. my fin­gers touch your blood. All my joy is to feel life spring from your flower-foun­tain that mine keeps to fill all the paths of my nerves which are yours.

Her most noto­ri­ous love let­ter does not appear to be one at first.

Bedrid­den, and fac­ing the ampu­ta­tion of a gan­grenous right leg that had already sac­ri­ficed some toes 20 years ear­li­er, she direct­ed the full force of her emo­tions at Rivera.

The lover she’d ten­der­ly pegged as “a boy frog stand­ing on his hind legs” now appeared to her an “ugly son of a bitch,” mad­den­ing­ly pos­sessed of the pow­er to seduce women (as he had seduced her).

You have to read all the way to the twist:


My dear Mr. Diego,

I’m writ­ing this let­ter from a hos­pi­tal room before I am admit­ted into the oper­at­ing the­atre. They want me to hur­ry, but I am deter­mined to fin­ish writ­ing first, as I don’t want to leave any­thing unfin­ished. Espe­cial­ly now that I know what they are up to. They want to hurt my pride by cut­ting a leg off. When they told me it would be nec­es­sary to ampu­tate, the news didn’t affect me the way every­body expect­ed. No, I was already a maimed woman when I lost you, again, for the umpteenth time maybe, and still I sur­vived.

I am not afraid of pain and you know it. It is almost inher­ent to my being, although I con­fess that I suf­fered, and a great deal, when you cheat­ed on me, every time you did it, not just with my sis­ter but with so many oth­er women. How did they let them­selves be fooled by you? You believe I was furi­ous about Cristi­na, but today I con­fess that it wasn’t because of her. It was because of me and you. First of all because of me, since I’ve nev­er been able to under­stand what you looked and look for, what they give you that I couldn’t. Let’s not fool our­selves, Diego, I gave you every­thing that is human­ly pos­si­ble to offer and we both know that. But still, how the hell do you man­age to seduce so many women when you’re such an ugly son of a bitch?

The rea­son why I’m writ­ing is not to accuse you of any­thing more than we’ve already accused each oth­er of in this and how­ev­er many more bloody lives. It’s because I’m hav­ing a leg cut off (damned thing, it got what it want­ed in the end). I told you I’ve count­ed myself as incom­plete for a long time, but why the fuck does every­body else need to know about it too? Now my frag­men­ta­tion will be obvi­ous for every­one to see, for you to see… That’s why I’m telling you before you hear it on the grapevine. For­give my not going to your house to say this in per­son, but giv­en the cir­cum­stances and my con­di­tion, I’m not allowed to leave the room, not even to use the bath­room. It’s not my inten­tion to make you or any­one else feel pity, and I don’t want you to feel guilty. I’m writ­ing to let you know I’m releas­ing you, I’m ampu­tat­ing you. Be hap­py and nev­er seek me again. I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want you to hear from me. If there is any­thing I’d enjoy before I die, it’d be not hav­ing to see your fuck­ing hor­ri­ble bas­tard face wan­der­ing around my gar­den.

That is all, I can now go to be chopped up in peace.

Good bye from some­body who is crazy and vehe­ment­ly in love with you,

Your Fri­da

This is a love let­ter mas­querad­ing as a doozy of a break up let­ter. The ref­er­ences to ampu­ta­tion are both lit­er­al and metaphor­i­cal:

No doubt, she was sin­cere, but this cou­ple, rather than hold­ing them­selves account­able, excelled at rever­sals. In the end the letter’s threat proved idle. Short­ly before her death,  the two appeared togeth­er in pub­lic, at a demon­stra­tion to protest the C.I.A.’s efforts to over­throw the left­ist Guatemalan regime.

Image via Brook­lyn Muse­um

Once Fri­da was safe­ly laid to rest, by which we mean rumored to have sat bolt upright as her cas­ket was slid into the incer­a­tor, Rivera mused in his auto­bi­og­ra­phy:

Too late now I real­ized the most won­der­ful part of my life had been my love for Fri­da. But I could not real­ly say that giv­en “anoth­er chance” I would have behaved toward her any dif­fer­ent­ly than I had. Every man is the prod­uct of the social atmos­phere in which he grows up and I am what I am…I had nev­er had any morals at all and had lived only for plea­sure where I found it. I was not good. I could dis­cern oth­er peo­ple’s weak­ness­es eas­i­ly, espe­cial­ly men’s, and then I would play upon them for no worth­while rea­son. If I loved a woman, the more I want­ed to hurt her. Fri­da was only the most obvi­ous vic­tim of this dis­gust­ing trait.

via Let­ters of Note and the book, Let­ters of Note: Love.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Take a Vir­tu­al Tour of Fri­da Kahlo’s Blue House Free Online

What the Icon­ic Paint­ing, “The Two Fridas,” Actu­al­ly Tells Us About Fri­da Kahlo

Dis­cov­er Fri­da Kahlo’s Wild­ly-Illus­trat­ed Diary: It Chron­i­cled the Last 10 Years of Her Life, and Then Got Locked Away for Decades

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Dr. Fauci Reads an Undergrad’s Entire Thesis, Then Follows Up with an Encouraging Letter

Pho­to via the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases 

What are some qual­i­ties to look for in a leader?

  • A thirst for knowl­edge
  • A sense of duty
  • The scru­ples to give cred­it where cred­it is due
  • A calm, clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion style
  • Humil­i­ty

Dr. Antho­ny Fau­ci brings these qual­i­ties to bear as Direc­tor of the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases at the Nation­al Insti­tute of Health.

They’re also on dis­play in his mes­sage to then-under­grad Luke Mes­sac, now an emer­gency med­i­cine res­i­dent at Brown Uni­ver­si­ty, whose research focus­es on the his­to­ries of health pol­i­cy in south­ern Africa and the US, and who recent­ly tweet­ed:

13 years ago, I emailed Dr. Fau­ci out of the blue to ask if I might inter­view him for my under­grad the­sis. He invit­ed me to his office, where he answered all my ques­tions. When I sent him the the­sis, HE READ THE WHOLE THING (see his over­ly effu­sive review below). Who does that?!

Here’s what Fau­ci had to say to the young sci­en­tist:

It cer­tain­ly reads like the work of a class act.

In addi­tion to serv­ing as one of the COVID-19 pandemic’s most rec­og­niz­able faces, Dr. Fau­ci has acquired anoth­er duty—that of scape­goat for Don­ald Trump, the 6th pres­i­dent he has answered to in his long career.

He seems to be tak­ing the administration’s pot­shots with a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly cool head, though com­pared to the furi­ous crit­i­cisms AIDS activists direct­ed his way in the 80s and 90s, he’s unlike­ly to find much of edu­ca­tion­al val­ue in them.

Last March, The Body Pro, a newslet­ter for work­ers on the front lines of HIV edu­ca­tion, pre­ven­tion, care, and ser­vices quot­ed ACT UP NY’s Jim Eigo on the doctor’s response to a let­ter demand­ing par­al­lel track­ing, a pol­i­cy revi­sion that would put poten­tial­ly life-sav­ing drugs in the hands of those who test­ed pos­i­tive far ear­li­er than the exist­ing clin­i­cal tri­al require­ments’ sched­ule would have allowed:

Lo and behold, he read the let­ter and liked it, and the fol­low­ing year he start­ed pro­mot­ing the idea of a par­al­lel track for AIDS drugs to the FDA. Had he not helped us push that through, we couldn’t have got­ten a lot of the cousin drugs to AZT, such as ddC and ddI, approved so fast. They were prob­lem­at­ic drugs, but with­out them, we couldn’t have kept so many peo­ple alive. 

Fau­ci, despite being straight and Catholic, was not only not homo­pho­bic, which much of med­ical prac­tice still was in the late 1980s, he also wouldn’t tol­er­ate homo­pho­bia among his col­leagues. He knew there was no place for that in a pub­lic-health cri­sis.

Speak­ing of cor­re­spon­dence, Dr Mes­sac seems to have tak­en the “per­pet­u­al stu­dent” con­cept Dr. Fau­ci impressed upon him back in 2007 to heart, as evi­denced by a recent tweet, regard­ing a les­son gleaned from Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger in Pump­ing Iron, a 1977 doc­u­men­tary about body­builders:

Schwarzeneg­ger explained how he would fig­ure out what to work out every day by look­ing in a mir­ror and find­ing his weak­est mus­cles. It’s pret­ty good advice for study­ing dur­ing res­i­den­cy. Every shift reveals a weak­ness, and greats nev­er stop look­ing for their own.

In writ­ing to Mes­sac, Dr. Fau­ci allud­ed to his com­mence­ment speech­es, so we thought it appro­pri­ate to leave you with one of his most recent ones, a vir­tu­al address to the grad­u­at­ing class of his alma mater, Col­lege of the Holy Cross:

“Now is the time, if ever there was one” he tells the Class of 2020, “to care self­less­ly about one anoth­er… Stay safe, and I look for­ward to the good work you will con­tribute in the years ahead.”

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Real Women Talk About Their Careers in Sci­ence

Richard Feynman’s Tech­nique for Learn­ing Some­thing New: An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion

Nov­el­ist Cor­mac McCarthy Gives Writ­ing Advice to Sci­en­tists … and Any­one Who Wants to Write Clear, Com­pelling Prose

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.

Neil Armstrong Sets Straight an Internet Truther Who Accused Him of Faking the Moon Landing (2000)

Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Peo­ple have been grad­u­at­ing from col­lege this year who are as old as the role of inter­net truther. It is a ven­er­a­ble hob­by (some might call it a cult) lead­ing increas­ing num­bers of peo­ple to bizarre con­clu­sions drawn from dubi­ous evi­dence prof­fered by spu­ri­ous sources; peo­ple con­vinced that some wild alle­ga­tion or oth­er must be true because they saw it on the Inter­net, shared by peo­ple they knew and liked.

Twen­ty years ago, one pio­neer­ing truther wrote Mr. Neil Arm­strong to put him in his place about that bug­bear, the faked moon land­ing. The author of the let­ter, a Mr. Whit­man, iden­ti­fies him­self as a “teacher of young chil­dren” charged with “a duty to tell them his­to­ry as it tru­ly hap­pened, and not a pack of lies and deceit.” His let­ter shows some dif­fi­cul­ty with gram­mar, and even more with crit­i­cal think­ing and stan­dards of evi­dence.

Mr. Whit­man makes his accu­sa­tions with cer­tain­ty and smug­ness. “Per­haps you are total­ly unaware,” he writes, “of all the evi­dence cir­cu­lat­ing the globe via the Inter­net,” which he then sum­ma­rizes.

He also sends Neil Armstrong—an astro­naut who either walked on the Moon or engaged in per­haps the great­est con­spir­a­cy in history—a URL, “to see for your­self how ridicu­lous the Moon land­ing claim looks 30 years on.” Whit­man sent Arm­strong the let­ter on the astro­naut’s 70th birth­day.

Armstrong’s response, via Let­ters of Note, can be read in full above. Per­haps Mr. Whit­man learned some­thing from the exchange—or had a moment of clar­i­ty about his meth­ods of inves­ti­ga­tion. One can hope. In any case, Armstrong’s unspar­ing reply serves as a tem­plate for responding—should some­one be so inclined—to inter­net truthers armed with wild con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries 20 years lat­er. These let­ters have been col­lect­ed in A Reluc­tant Icon: Let­ters to Neil Arm­strong.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Stan­ley Kubrick Faked the Apol­lo 11 Moon Land­ing in 1969, Or So the Con­spir­a­cy The­o­ry Goes

Watch the Orig­i­nal TV Cov­er­age of the His­toric Apol­lo 11 Moon Land­ing: Record­ed on July 20, 1969

Every Har­row­ing Sec­ond of the Apol­lo 11 Land­ing Revis­it­ed in a New NASA Video: It Took Place 50 Years Ago Today (July 20, 1969)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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