The Monday Media Diet With Rafa Jimenez
On Nick Cave, mass deleting, and Louise Glück
Rafa Jimenez (RJ) was introduced to us by WITI contributor Steve Bryant. I loved the depth of this MMD, and hope it provides a great start to your week. -Colin (CJN)
Tell us about yourself.
I’m one of those old guys who used dial-up to connect to the internet and felt like the screen was a magical portal to the whole world.
I used to describe myself as an interactivist, just because I was (am?) a big believer in interactivity as a key differentiating factor between traditional and digital media. I stole that from the great Brenda Laurel. Nowadays I think of myself as a dilettante — I’ve dabbled in writing, music, and Go, all of which I enjoy a lot but have never seriously committed to any of them. I just might do it when I retire, I guess.
I’m currently GM/Partner at Good Rebels México, a full-service digital agency, and Founder/CEO at Seenapse, an AI tool that generates truly creative, divergent ideas for marketing and advertising. I live in Mexico City with my lovely wife and our elderly (but also lovely!) Schnauzer, and I’m the proud father of two wonderful adults.
Describe your media diet.
My media diet is changing these days. I just went cold turkey on Twitter, which used to be the place where I got most of my daily information intake on a wide range of topics, but also where I felt I were in contact with people that are important to me, and where I could share my thoughts on stuff (although it was mostly shitposting).
I left Twitter because I think it’s in terrible hands now. It will, most probably, lose the delicate balance that it (mostly) had, between being a delightful and a horrible place. I think it will be decaying fast and I don’t want to be there to witness it. Hopefully I’m wrong!
Anyway, as a result, I’m turning more now to Reddit (very specific communities, like Go-related stuff, AI, creativity, and Brompton bikes), Apple News+ (The Atlantic, Wired, The New Yorker, and Rolling Stone), and paying more attention to the newsletters I subscribe to, which are TLDR (a good digest of tech-related news), Strands of Genius (come for the links but stay for the thought-provoking musings of Faris, Rosie, and guests), The Red Hand Files (Nick Cave answering questions from fans!), Delightful (great lessons on content writing, even when they don’t look like lessons, from Steve Bryant), Adjacent Possible (from Steven Johnson, author of the great book Where Do Ideas Come From, and around the same subject), and the one you’re reading right now, of course. All of which I heartily recommend.
My day typically starts deleting mails from most other subscriptions just by glancing at the subject, including AdAge, Product Hunt, Crunchbase, Pitchbook, and a long etcetera. I feel relieved when they disappear from my inbox. Why don’t I just unsubscribe? Well, because, once in a while, one of those has a subject that piques my interest. So they live. For now.
I listen to podcasts when doing the dishes. I like Philosophize This!, because Stephen West does a great job of unpacking some philosophers’ works that are frankly impenetrable, and I’ve also gotten to know the work of others who I hadn’t paid much attention to before, and are vital. I also like Metamuse, produced by the guys behind Muse, an iPad/Mac app that I love because it’s simple, well-designed, and does a great job of helping me to think and develop ideas. Their podcast is about product design.
What’s the last great book you read?
I think it was The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I like many of his books, and actually read Klara and the Sun, which came later, more recently. But Giant stayed in my mind for weeks after I finished reading it. It’s an Arthurian novel with magical creatures, which is unusual territory for Ishiguro — but what underlies that is a powerful reflection on humanity and culture.
What are you reading now?
I have the questionable habit of reading many books at the same time, so the current list is Future Now: The Making of Blade Runner, by Paul M. Sammon; The Will to Change, by bell hooks; Room to Dream, by David Lynch and Kristine McKenna; and A Thousand Plateaus, by Deleuze and Guattari (this one I’ve been reading for over two years, and I think it will take a couple more).
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
I seldom read print copies, but when I do I browse them quickly until something catches my eye. Other times the article featured in the cover is the reason why I picked it and so I go straight to reading that and then browse the rest. Which is different from what I used to do when I subscribed to magazines, because I reserved the article that interested me the most for last, or at least for a special, quiet moment. Now, in their digital equivalents, what I don’t read right away won’t ever be read.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
Hmm, this is hard. I’ll go with Louise Glück, if you haven’t read her. Powerful stuff. I think we all should be reading more poetry in general.
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
Tsumego Pro. It has daily Go problems to solve, for beginners mostly (like myself, still a beginner after 15 years).
Plane or train?
It depends. In Mexico, for example, passenger trains are basically non-existent, so plane. And also for, you know, crossing oceans. But trains are delightful because they allow you to see what’s between point A and point B, and are a lot easier, and faster, to board than planes.
What is one place everyone should visit?
Coatepec. It’s a lovely little town in the mountains near the Gulf of Mexico, where you can have great coffee, eat delicious food, wander around its pretty streets, and if you’re feeling more adventurous, do some rafting in the Río Antigua in nearby Jalcomulco.
Tell us the story of a rabbit hole you fell deep into.
We were recently in Prague, and I started to tell my wife the few things I remembered about the legend of the Golem of Prague, and she was fascinated with the story, so we decided to learn more about it. We went to the Spanish Synagogue, where we bought a booklet with several legends of the Bohemia Jews, including the Golem, and they sold clay figurines which of course we bought:
The legend is wonderful. The Maharal, a powerful Rabbi, makes a humanoid figure out of clay (as god made Adam) and, to make it come alive, he has to write the name of god in its forehead (or, in a variation of the story, write it in a piece of paper and putting it inside its mouth). The Maharal does not know the name of god but basically brute-forces it, like one would do with a password, by trying and trying different combinations of Hebrew characters until he uses emét (truth), and the Golem is activated. By removing the first (right-most) character (which in this case is the aleph and so Borges comes to mind, and turns out he wrote a poem about the Golem), it now reads mét, which means “death”. This alone I loved — going from truth to death by removing a character, and thus inactivating the Golem.
But there are many other fascinating things, such as it being the inspiration for Shelley’s Frankenstein; and, being an automaton that performs instructions verbatim, also the ancestor of robots (although Karel Čapek, the coiner of the term robot, who by the way was also Czech, denies being inspired by the legend); and apparently, the inspiration behind superhero comics, as told in the great novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon, where I first read about the Golem of Prague. That book was gifted to me by a friend who I met at Ogilvy, when I was just starting in advertising. See, everything connects, like in The Aleph! (RJ)
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Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Rafa
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