Come Here Often?

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Meet Sean Manning. Sean is the executive editor of Rhapsody, the first- and business-class magazine Ink publishes on behalf of United out of our Brooklyn office. I’ve yet to meet Sean but I’ve a feeling we’re going to get on because we’re going to have a lot to talk about.

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Sean’s the editor of the just-published Come Here Often? in which, as the subtitle makes clear, ’53 Writers Raise A Glass to their Favorite Bar’. Under headings including ‘Dives’, ‘Upscale Joints’ and ‘The Music’ a bunch of contributors, some of whom you might have heard of (war correspondent and Vanity Fair contributor Janine Di Giovanni, The Hold Steady frontman Craig Finn, author of the highly controversial novel Tampa Alissa Nutting, crime writer James Sallis of Drive fame, and bloody-nosed king of partying Andrew W.K.) and many of whom you won’t hold forth on the ideal drinking haunt.

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The book is heavily slanted toward Sean’s current burg of residence, NYC, and the US in general, and while there are no London entries (like this city doesn’t have drinkers and writers!) there are some terrific far-flung contributions from the likes of Beijing, Kiribati, Tel Aviv, Positano, Zagreb, Jerusalem and Tehran. Yes, Tehran. Where the punishment for intoxication is not just a disgusted look from your partner but 80 lashes. The bar in this case isn’t a bar at all but a Peugeot belonging to the author’s friend Leila in which they cruise around town swigging homemade vodka with orange on streets “where many young people, like us, drink in their cars, because Iran is a country with no bars, and there is no suppressing the human urge to drink publicly, in the unscripted company of both friends and strangers’.

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While I don’t imagine ever finding myself in Leila’s car, other inclusions in Sean’s book have definitely been bookmarked, so that if I ever find myself in Oxford, Mississippi, then there’s this little bar I read of… (Posted by AndrewH)

Second only to slimming

Last Thursday, 10 July, Rickard Westin, art director of N by Norwegian, and myself, the magazine’s editor, went to the PPA Awards at the Grosvenor House Hotel and just about succeeded in not disgracing ourselves. The PPA for those who don;t know is the Professional Publishers Assocation and it is the UK’s grand publishing body.

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It was a really fun night, if slightly more formal than the BSME Awards. Claudia Winkelman was a lively if slightly too polished presenter; there was a warm, funny video piece about the eccentric late publisher Felix Dennis; and a nice speech from Michael Heseltine, who was very amusing on Felix Dennis. Otherwise, think distinguished gentlemen in tuxedos and 45-quid bottles of house wine – though horrifyingly, no goodie bags.

A nice touch was that winners were serenaded by personalised theme songs – business columnist of the year Sally Donovan, for example, got a bit of ‘So Sally can wait’ from Oasis. Sadly we never got to hear a snatch of Norwegian Wood. However, we were compensated by the honour of being “highly commended” (ie second) in the Customer Magazine of the Year.

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We were beaten, incidentally, by the almighty Slimming World, a juggernaut of real-life weight loss stories (we were too distracted to hear their song). Would you rather read about how to lose three stone in six weeks or about bull’s testicle whips and severed fish heads (all in the August issue of N by Norwegian)? Actually, don’t answer that. (Posted by Toby Skinner)

Never can say goodbye

Ex-Ink art director/group art director Julia Murray may have swapped London for a return to her family home (and 800-head of cattle) back in New Zealand but she hasn’t completely severed ties with Ink. She supplied some beautiful illustration work for the new issue of Germanwings, to accompany a feature on the best of European zoos. (Posted by AndrewH)

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Final spread

Interesting new book/blog

Back in 2008, Brighton-based freelance art director Stuart Tolley worked with Ink on the launch of J Magazine, for Jazeera Airways. He designed, I think, the first half dozen issues and had great fun with the covers in particular, which always featured a giant J. I loved that the monkeys on the front of the launch issue escaped the cover and scampered throughout the pages of the magazine.

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Stuart also worked with Esquire, The Independent‘s Saturday magazine and Sleazenation, and had the unfortunate job of trying to make visual sense of the car crash that was Disappear Here, the short-lived magazine from Peaches Geldof and Loaded-founder James Brown.

His latest project is Collector’s Edition, which showcases beautifully produced, innovative, limited edition packaging for the music, book and magazine industries. The book, with contributions from Radiohead, Haruki Murukami, Mario Testino, Dinos Chapman and heaps more, comes out later this year, but meanwhile you can check out his blog, here. (Posted by AndrewH)

Dispatches from the Hemispheres

We’ve got a guy here on the editorial floor of Ink’s London office who’s a source of great amusement for his colleagues, as well as some confusion. Anyone who sits within hearing distance – and that’s plenty of us – gets to overhear a life played out in one-sided phonecalls that are by turns comical (the conversations with his four-year-old daughter when he speaks in the voice of Mr Dinosaur), achingly funny (like when he’s explaining to a writer why the story they’ve just filed is unpublishable) and outright hilarious (his retelling of how he locked himself out on a balcony in his underwear with his daughter who quickly became desperate to go to the toilet). The confusion is because lots of people don’t know what Chris Wright does.

That comes about as a result of him not working on a London-based magazine. His magazine is Hemispheres, a class publication that Ink actually puts together in its New York office. As executive editor, it’s Chris’s job to remind the rest of the editorial team on the other side of the Atlantic that there is a whole world out there beyond the shores of America.

He is also specifically responsible for putting together the magazine’s Dispatches section; this takes the form of a bunch of short stories filed from around the globe that suggest that wherever it is you’re heading, it’s all a lot quirkier than you think. Some of these are no more than groan-worthy shaggy-dog stories or extended jokes, but others are almost profound. They are all reliably finely honed pieces of writing and all represent a very Chris Wright outlook on life. If you’re not lucky enough to be listening in on his phonecalls, then reading Hemisphere‘s archived Dispatches online is the next best thing.

Try this one:

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Author Cain Nunns Illustration Peter Oumanski

SHANGHAI – Barely five feet tall, hobbled by an old industrial accident and decked out in an ill-fitting navy blue Mao jacket, 74-year-old Zhang Ying doesn’t look like a trainer of prizefighters. But appearances can be deceiving. The Shanghai native has produced hundreds of champions over a career that has spanned six decades.

When Zhang ducks into a doorway on a side street at the edge of Shanghai’s commercial district, his presence hushes the crowd inside, which has gathered to witness a favorite bloodsport in this region of China. At the periphery, stewards collect fistfuls of yuan. Bets at underground matches like these routinely run into the thousands of dollars.

The smart money is on Zhang’s fighter, Yellow Dragon, who has won 15 bouts in a row.

It could be the result of the fish diet Zhang’s been feeding him, or the brutal workout regimen, but the champion is much broader than his opponent. There are whispers that Zhang’s also got him hopped up on some kind of herbal tea concoction.

Yellow Dragon, who stands about an inch high, is one of the stars (known as qu qu) of cricket fighting, a tradition that was once the domain of the gilded set but which is now played out in insect markets, like this one, across Shanghai. Each fight lasts no longer than 10 seconds or so, but in that time the crowd can be whipped into a fury of screeching and finger-pointing as combatants execute supposed kung fu maneuvers.

Zhang’s cricket is released from his bamboo cage, and the two foes eye each other warily across the Formica-topped table. The Dragon, however, hasn’t built his reputation by playing coy. Within seconds he is a blur of hurricane aggression and snapping limbs. Outmatched and outgunned, his opponent scurries back to the far side of the ring. He’s had enough.

“Pathetic,” spits one onlooker in disgust.

Zhang barely responds to the victory. He has seen it all, from the banning of the bourgeois sport during the Cultural Revolution, to intermittent police crackdowns on gambling, to its recent resurgence and the establishment of pro leagues across the Middle Kingdom. Few crickets would be a match for the Dragon, who, having dispatched another victim, continues his march to immortality.

“Don’t count on it,” Zhang sniffs. “Crickets don’t live very long. He’ll be dead within a month.”

Here’s a couple more recent good ones:

War Games
Once a training tool for budding Cold Warriors, Soviet video games are attracting a new breed of player. By Robin Cherry, from June 2013

Altitude adjustment
The comic potential of topographical confusion. By James Dorsey, from Nov 2013

(Posted by AndrewH)