Art & Culture My Lectures

The Future of Journalism and Cultural Blogging

Thinking of coming to PICNIC in Amsterdam next week? Be sure to come to a session I am speaking at on September 22 entitled Cultural Criticism in the Age of New Journalism, with Claudine Boeglin, Diana Krabbendam, Wilfried Ruetten, and moderated by Raymond van den Boogaard, Chief Arts Editor, NRC/Handelsblad.

This panel will be followed immediately by the launch of Cultural Bloggers Interviewed, a book by LabforCulture. The launch will feature myself in a Q & A with Annette Wolfsberger, who conducted the interviews for the book. Will I see you there? DM me on Twitter or drop me a line if you will be around.

Art & Culture

A little Jónsi magic


I recently had the pleasure of hearing Jónsi (of Sigur Rós fame) perform live at the Paradiso here in Amsterdam. I am not a music critic, and so it’s difficult for me to write about the performance without resorting to what may seem to be clichéd language: transcendent, sublime, stunning – but it was all those things.

I have long been a Sigur Rós fan, and had no doubt after a cursory listen online that the latest solo effort by their lead singer, Jónsi, would be to my taste exactly. That said, it is important to note the differences: Jónsi sings in English, not Hopelandic; the attack and decay happens faster, with only traces of the Takk-era Sigur Rós slow crescendos. It’s beautiful music that deserves multiple listens. In the concert environment, Jónsi was appropriately taciturn between songs, and the performance of the songs themselves was impeccable.

The visuals, which were equally what I was there to see if I am to be completely honest, were in such stunning synergy with the music that it was breathtaking. As you’ll see in the behind-the-scenes video I’ve embedded below, the 59 Productions team worked closely with Jónsi after all his songs were finished, to create a “visual track” to go along with his music. However, it is so much more than that. The animations are emotionally resonant, full of richness and compelling in their own right. The combination of potent visuals and stirring song leads audiences directly into lump-in-throat territory.

Art & Culture Asides

How Not To Make A Difference

Rosa Parks - someone who made a real difference.

I recently attended a course at “The School of Life“, in London, UK. This course was called “How To Make A Difference”. It cost £30 and featured wine, sandwiches, and cake along with a couple of hours of lecturing and group activity. It unfortunately taught me nothing new, and in fact made me feel ashamed to be there: what kind of privileged middle-class jerk was I, attending a class on how to make a difference, when I know full well what to do? When I know full well what those who are not in my elevated position have to do just to carve out a tiny bit of space for themselves?

It didn’t help that the examples of the “changemakers” in this “class” (oh yeah, I am using quotes very recklessly and lazily!) presented were 98% white males, negating long and powerful histories of activism around the world by, uh, everyone else.

I pointed out this terrible omission to the teacher, and so my duty to “The School of Life” is done.

Instead of writing angry screeds to Alain de Botton (heavily involved in the establishment of said “school”), or overly angry screeds here (I could go into much further detail), I decided I’ll write something cursory here about my experience, as a kind of word to the wise to my friends and associates, and hold my own event here in Amsterdam, on How To Make A Real Difference. (Hat tip to Alex for putting this idea in my head).

Stay tuned for details on this event.

10/06/2010 update: Alain de Botton himself has been in touch to discuss my concerns in depth. Kudos to Alain and the School for being very attentive to my feedback.