On my new gig…

I’ve got a new job! This just went out over the e-wire, and here it is now for some edification.

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Greetings,

My term as Creativity’s associate editor has come to a close.

I’m still under the Ad Age umbrella, though, and have exciting work ahead of me.

As of next week I’m moving into a role programming and developing content around Ad Age and Creativity events–recruiting speakers, creating leading content around concepts and panel agendas, making sure everyone knows what’s coming up, etc.–as Ad Age’s events content manager.

While it’s a disappointment to see my part in the day-to-day reporting in Creativity’s exciting world diminish, I’ve got something new to be looking forward to: shaping how we interact with you, dear reader, in the live space, how we help confer knowledge and make deeper connections.
Continue reading “On my new gig…”

Iceland, Icelander, Icelanding

Halldór Laxness by Einar Hákonarson, 1984
Halldór Laxness by Einar Hákonarson, 1984

For me, one of the more fun and exciting parts of meeting people who write stuff for a living comes when you skip onto something, appreciate it, and, looking back at the byline, realize a respected colleague has written it. That’s more or less what happened the other day when I followed a link from Arts and Letters Daily to this article, “Becoming Halldór Laxness” at the incipient The National out of the UAE. Turns out, it’s pal (and old roommate) Sam Munson reviewing restless Iceland native Laxness’ The Great Weaver from Kashmir. Munson says it bears resemblance to “other works of hectic spiritual heroics” such as Knut Hamsun’s Hunger, which is enough for me to check it out.

In other news barely related to our credit-crunched North Atlantic friends, another chum, Dustin Long, who wrote a novel called Icelander, has provided some year-end recos over at The Millions.

To continue this terribly tenuous connection, I had an icy landing on Friday, barely escaping New York’s snowfall to be blown headlong into a huge Michigan dump. And guess what was on TV that night? Well, Johnny, nothing but a beautiful documentary about an Icelandic band Sigur Rós, Heima.

So, Nick, you ask, what’s the takeaway? And of course I ignore you because “takeaway” is one of those terrible beige middle management words we should actively conduct disgust towards. I guess, though, check these books out, if you’re interested, or have some late-game gift-giving to do for someone who loves reading.

I’m in my own private Iceland in Michigan for a few weeks, but I’ve recently uncovered some childhood treasures I want to bring to you soon, a little treasure trove you can consider your holiday treat.

Break these chains…

I’ve become accustomed to having Google’s technologists be one step ahead of my brain in terms of new web items. I get riled about the lack of email storage, along comes Gmail. Bummed about IM-blockers in the office? Gmail chat. Lately I’ve been wondering how to keep a synchronization between the dozens of cool things I scope at the office daily and my surfing at home. There’s clearly no way to follow up on every strange link that comes across the Internet (especially since I’m such a dedicated employee, pathologically averse to letting nonsense gnaw at productivity), so logging the things that get sent over IM, served up in my newsfeed reader (FeedDemon, if you were wondering) and mailed over is a high priority. I toyed with running Firefox, Gaim and other things on a USB drive and bringing it home and doing the same from the laptop but the lab rats at Google came to the rescue again with Browser Sync. Basically you install it in Firefox and it keeps your history, bookmarks, extensions etc in line between several machines.

‘What does this mean for me?’ you ask? Well, it makes it easier for me to dump a bunch of links to wild and crazy stuff on you. So enjoy.

Since it’s mostly video stuff I won’t turn this page into a monstrosity by embedding every one. Here goes.

Continue reading “Break these chains…”

Navel Gazing and other Humid Pursuits

Self reference time! Post-Euroswing I’ve had to relearn the most basic human motor functions, including complex cognition and not expecting chilled bottles of champagne lurking at every turn and beaches packed with delirious hedonism. Unravelling? No, I’ve tied up several loose ends in recent weeks in several strange twists of fate.

The first came in Cannes, a few days after I left the techno madness of Barcelona behind. I was dining at a quaint Italian restaurant called Arcimboldo when I noticed a guy at the table next to me was wearing a M.A.N.D.Y. T-shirt. I had to mention something, and when I did he introduced himself as Peter Hayo, a founding member of Get Physical and producer of many fine dance records. He was in town as part of his other concern, Perky Park, a company that does music production for commercials and otherwise. His two co-conspirators, Walter Merziger, Arno Kammermeier are also known as Booka Shade. So, naturally, I asked him about a rumor I’d heard, that they produced Aqua’s “Barbie Girl.” The rumor delighted me–that the popularity of a silly Danish pop song I’d found so much delight in could have been been responsible for the genesis of one of the biggest forces in contemporary dance music would have been an utterly fun piece of cosmic coincidence. Alas, not so, entirely. Hayo and chums just remixed the track for Universal Music, and, as you know, it spent a significant amount of time on the charts, and, subsequently, fattened the Perky Park synth fund.

The second weird, ‘What the?’ techno moment came after I returned, and got a tip from a diligent German about the closeness between the group awarded the Titanium Lion at Cannes and work done by pfadfinderei, Bpitch’s design gurus. Turns out, shaping barcodes to make them look cool while still functioning is a pretty routine concept in graphic design. So kids, don’t believe everything the awards shows tell you.

Also worth noting, on recommendation from this man I picked up some Hans Fallada, which, some months and many pleasurable pages later, turned out to be appropriate here:

Hans Fallada wrote The Drinker over two weeks in 1944, while residing in a a criminal asylum near AltStrelitz, Germany. He was confined there for the attempted murder of his wife. Given these inauspicious beginnings, the book has been especially troublesome for critics. It’s disingenous, however, to look at The Drinker as anything but the personal reflection of an author torn asunder by a turbulent society in collapse.The novel begins as narrator Erwin Sommer’s successful grocery concern teeters on the brink of collapse. With sparse language, the book composes an intimate psychological profile of an obsessive who would fling everything to the wind sooner than ask for assistance. He empties his savings and steals his wife’s silver — anything for another moment with his muse, Elinor, a village barmaid he fixates upon during his initial jag and who becomes his queen of schnapps, ruler of a woozy and throbbing world.

All his life, Fallada — a pseudonym chosen by Rudolf Ditzen — has inflicted tortures upon himself and others. During a melancholy childhood, he killed a chum when a suicide pact disguised as a duel went awry. Ditzen later grew into morphine addiction, alcoholism, and a carton-a-day smoking habit, with eventual trips in and out of institutions and prisons. Astonishingly, Ditzen found time to write nearly two dozen books during his dissolute life, very few of which are available in English. While Little Man, What Now? is justly famous for its excavation of pre-War German consciousness, The Drinker is an equally profound exploration of the author’s own demons of substance abuse.

While the book’s spare tone, lack of flashy language, and stark portrayal of German society are all signature marks of Ditzen, The Drinker more closely resembles Evelyn Waugh’s The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold. The novel is clearly founded in life experience, yet its narrative flights of fancy cultivate readers who place confidence in the narrator’s inner turmoil, but remain wary of the details.
– Nick Parish