William Dalrymple’s writing routine

There are lots of lovely details here that do much to illuminate the sheer grind and self-discipline required for any serious writer:

During the research process which takes place in year two or three, I have a very anal system. I have three or four card indexes, organised by name, place, and topic. I keep a dateline on my laptop with every event from the beginning of the story to the end. It usually starts at about four or five pages and by the time I start to write it’s about 400 pages. In that is the key quotes boiled down and tightened up in neat little gobbets. It’s a very slow process.

How I write – by William Dalrymple.


When a little design goes a long way

Consider your Twitter stream – a buzzing panoply of words, images, GIFs and God knows what else. What prompts you to click a given link? I don’t know. But I like this less-is-more approach The New York Times is taking with the images they use to illustrate their tweets:

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 14.33.29

I’ve always liked their font – it’s refined (shorthand for a bit snooty, which I am as well) – and the use of a compelling quote in white on black in a medium dominated by decontextualised and garish images is a cleverly judicious way to stand out and grab attention.

On the Cannes Festival of Creativity


It’s the same every year… Cannes comes around, people go and get drunk and then come back disillusioned at the state of the ad industry.

Here are the two best dissertations of disgruntlement:

Tom Goodwin in The Guardian:

At a time when businesses face existential challenges, we seem determined to provide silly, self-serving solutions.

And Ian Schafer on Medium:

Cannes is a caricature of the advertising business, and its hyper-exaggerated features are signals of needed, life-preserving change.



I was buying a coffee in Kaffe og Vinyl the other day and something was playing I was gradually getting more and more into. I asked, and the girl held up a record sleeve and said the name, Nagamatzu. I only heard a couple of tracks but it sounded contemporary. If I’d had to put money on it I would have said it was contemporary. Also, look at the picture above… you could have seen them DJ at Distortion last week. Turns out the band, originally a duo and later a trio, released their first music in 1981. The below comes from here:

Their name comes from a character in JG Ballard‘s “Atrocity Exhibition” and their music reflects his influence and incorporates carefully chosen samples from the Challenger shuttle disaster, Gregorian chants and films including “Dawn of the Dead” and “The Omen.” Their songs were recorded onto a Ferrograph reel to reel in a small room at their parent’s house and some of the backing rhythms and sequencers were recorded first onto cassette and then the band played along live.

This is from the second release, Sacred Islands of the Mad. It’s very lovely:

The good will out

Been reading a lot of refreshingly down-to-earth stuff about advertising and marketing lately. Perhaps we’ve come full circle in the sense that the circlejerk of content marketing and all things digital is shuddering to a halt and we’re getting back to the basics – achieving results for clients by helping their brands stand out.

Here’s the latest piece, a lament about how much bullshit is spouted by digital marketing experts:

However we express it, our challenge isn’t a new one. It is the same one that faced the programme makers who first made television and the producers who first made movies before them. We have to get an audience. But did that great pioneering content creator Cecil B DeMille say: ‘Social activation for content amplification and outreach via an integrated network of human experience strategists is the future’? No he did not. He said: ’The public is always right’.

Never work with animals

I remember seeing this film when I was a kid. I thought it was great. The Economist has the scoop on the batshit crazy backstory:

Warned by experts of the lunacy of directing upwards of 30 lions, Ms Hedren and Mr Marshall resolved to train a four-legged cast themselves at their Beverly Hills home. Accumulating ever more lions, they founded an entire sanctuary, the Shambala Preserve, 40 miles from Los Angeles. There, over the course of five years, Ms Hedren and Mr Marshall, an executive producer flush from “The Exorcist”, shot “Roar”. They faced the obstacles that might be expected—70 bloody attacks that injured lead actors and crew (Mr Marshall needed treatment for gangrene), and scalped their cinematographer—as well as others that sound like messages from God: floods, wildfires and feline disease.


However, it was an Everton substitute, Kevin Mirallas, who came from the Greek League for a tenth of what United spunked on the wombat-faced Argentinian cross-country runner, who settled the game once and for all.

There’s no finer football writer than this guy.

The (marketing) fallacy of our time

Giles Hedger, Leo Burnett’s chief strategy officer, has articulated very precisely my feelings about the delusions of today’s tech-obsessed marketer:

The error is more than a technical miscalculation – it is a complete spiritual misdirect. It is not confined to a core of native technologists; it is everywhere and it is fundamental. It is the belief that brand-building can be reduced to a binary essence in which there are just ones and zeros and none of the captivating maybes; the belief that creative hypothesis can be replaced by optimisation; and the belief that marketing contract can be stripped of all its joyful subjectivity until all that remains between consumer and brand is transaction. It is the fallacy of our time.

Stuff marketers say

The Trebor brand manager had this to say about Wieden + Kennedy’s new campaign for its mints:

It will encourage shoppers to pick up a pack of Trebor by highlighting its great taste and heritage.

Maybe there’s more ads to come where taste and heritage get highlighted but this just looks like a bit of pointless surrealism to me.

Good times

Warriors returning from battle were handed oliphants filled with wine and told that if they could drink without spilling a drop, their wives had been faithful.

From a New York Times’ review of The Medieval Oliphant. Now you know that oliphants are musical instruments fashioned from tusks and apparently used for drinking.