“Schreiben nach Hebdo”: The World is Grey. And Grey is Beautiful.

Impressions in Grey.


„Shades of grey wherever I go

The more I find out the less that I know

Black and white is how it should be

But shades of grey are the colors I see.“

(Billy Joel)

Charlie Hebdo, even the name Charlie alone, has become a sad chiffre for the state of the world we’re in – or maybe have always been. On January 7, 2015, at 11:30 AM, the world stood still for a second, probably even changed irreversibly. Once again.

Like on September 11, 2001.

Like on November 10, 1938.

Dates scarred into modern conscience, because they marked the end of worlds as we knew them. Once again.

Watching the unbelievable Paris scenes, enduring the multitude of talk shows that spilt over our TV screens like the inevitable vomit after a serious case of food poisoning, I could actually physically feel the caesura this event means for Europe, just like 9/11 for the USA. For better or worse, only history will tell.

Stereotypes will grow, prejudices will thrive, the legislative and especially executive countermeasures to serve the earlier will be scarily en vogue. Left, right. Muslim, Christian, Jew. Black and White.

Blueprint “Schreiben nach Auschwitz”

Writing about anything else in the aftermath of the Hebdo murders felt like an impossibility to me, inappropriate, even an act of blasphemy in a strictly non-religious sense.

Posts on communication and marketing trends in 2015 were on the storycodeX to-write list in early January – as for many a net writer interested in this stuff. Topics like the rivalry of Content Marketing and Brand Journalism. Like the true meaning of Content. Or Doc Searls’ and David Weinberger’s “New Clues”, but … just wouldn’t work. It’s like the author’s fingers refused to type, forced their tips to the West, to France, to the city of love.

Emotional thoughts and thoughtful emotions that somehow drew me towards a re-read of a speech by Günter Grass, held as part of his poetry lecture at Goethe University in Frankfurt in 1990. Its title: “Schreiben nach Auschwitz”. In his speech, Grass not only elaborates on his literary story and stories, but also makes a critical reference to Theodor W. Adorno’s discourse “Minima Moralia” as well as the infamous and often over-exaggeratingly dogmatized claim “Nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht schreiben ist barbarisch” from his 1951 essay “Kulturkritik und Gesellschaft – Gedichte nach Auschwitz”. The full context of this quote goes as follows:

“Kulturkritik findet sich der letzten Stufe der Dialektik von Kultur und Barbarei gegenüber: nach Auschwitz ein Gedicht zu schreiben, ist barbarisch, und das frisst auch die Erkenntnis an, die ausspricht, warum es unmöglich ward, heute Gedichte zu schreiben. Der absoluten Verdinglichung, die den Fortschritt des Geistes als eines ihrer Elemente voraussetzte und die ihn heute gänzlich aufzusaugen sich anschickt, ist der kritische Geist nicht gewachsen, solange er bei sich bleibt in selbstgenügsamer Kontemplation.”


It might seem a far-fetched, lame mental leap from World War II to the afterbirth’s of Al Qaida and ISIS, but mental leaps always are, and are allowed, maybe even meant to be. So here’s mine:

Granted, the extent and magnitude of the Nazi terror that forever displayed to the world the ugly grimace of human abyss is by no means comparable with anything we see happening in the name of Allah by a fanatic, blinded-by-hate extremist minority of an otherwise peaceful religion today. Not yet, that is.

Also, the apparent historic facts of the lurching Weimar Republic and today’s crumbling century-old models of life in many parts of the world, not only in the Middle East and Africa, seem to hold little resemblance.

And the respective motives for launching terroristic machinery are quite different. On the outside at least.

On the inside it’s always about power, money, and religion in a wider sense.

NAZISIS – Same Illness, Different Symptoms

Still there are parallels, alarmingly terrifying parallels, between what took its beginning in Germany’s 1933, in a time of ubiquitous uncertainty, political and economic fragility, susceptibility towards extremism, and the rise of organizations like Al Qaida and ISIS. In the end, it’s the promise of a better life for the faithful and devout, a better world, even a better death and afterlife, killing and dying for a greater good.

I figure a young, frustrated, unemployed, sidelined man with no role in society, no prospect for a future, in disharmony with the world, approached by someone seemingly larger than life, promising wealth, meaning and purpose, to serve a cause … and off the soldiers march.

I figure the constant human need to find bogeymen for their own misery, the all-too-human suspicion of everything and everybody different, and how it’s always easier to blame others than yourself. And if you then even get the official mandate to punish those others … off the soldiers march.

I figure the damage that fanatism and the colors Black and White have always done, the pain and the suffering they have created, always for seemingly greater goods, proclaimed by charismatic mindfuckers using people to kill people, turning them into blind-folded soldiers … soldiers that march off to wherever they are told.

Self-sufficient Contemplation – The Death of Civil Courage

While drawing parallels between the spoilt acronyms NAZI and ISIS, and bringing them closer together for thorough examination seems like a worthwhile topic for a Bachelor or Masters thesis in Political Science, Cultural Science or History (that would certainly do this idea more resilient justice than my unstructured, initial thoughts here), the author is drawn back to Adorno and a key phrase in above quote in relation to writing after Auschwitz, after 9/11, after Hebdo: “Selbstgenügsame Kontemplation”, probably best translated as “self-sufficient contemplation”, the enemy of the skeptical, questioning intellect.

Maybe self-centered contemplation is indeed even the death of civil courage, the end of questioning, the end of insurgency. To read about such tragedies and incredibilities, watch them on TV, maybe follow a hashtag that makes you feel engaged, yet de facto going on with your life as if nothing had happened. To go on with writing about meaningless bullshit like content strategies and the best way to fill people’s heads with marketing shit they don’t want to see, at places where they don’t want to be bothered, by companies they care for even less after being menaced. Gosh, how many newsletters or tweets or Linked-In group posts did I receive right after Paris, and how many of them made me think “Why the hell is this important now???”.

I agree, life goes on, and life changes as it does – that’s probably the only constant we can really rely on. And the probability that also storycodeX.com will return to the path it initially set out on is high. Still, sometimes it’s simply time to pause for a moment, take a grateful look around at your own life, your own health and wealth, at the freedom of speech we enjoy, a privilege that should never be taken for granted, a freedom that none of us post-war kids ever did anything for, nothing that makes us actually deserve it. It was given to us a gift by our parents and grandparents, and we need to fight for it, now and forever.

But not by all means, not with uninformed impulses, and never in a way that serves delusional superiority over others, never with a sense of Black or White, but with a dialectic appreciation of the beauty of Grey, the manifold shades of which much better represent our world and everything that has ever happened, everything that is happening right now, and everything that will ever happen. The world is grey, and should we ever learn how great it is that there are always two sides to a coin, that this is what makes life rich and exciting, only then will we be able to do what – let’s be honest – everybody wants: to live in peace and enjoy life.

Light at the Grey Horizon

“Der Verzicht auf reine Farbe”

Günter Grass concludes his speech in Frankfurt and his reference to Adorno (whose famous quote he also, at first, misunderstood as a prohibiting verdict) with the retrospect cognition that his own (and his fellow post-war writers’) literary output would never have been possible without the leaden weight of history, and for him personally without the weight of Adorno’s verdict. In his own reading, Grass notes that “diese Vorschrift verlangte Verzicht auf reine Farbe; sie schrieb das Grau und dessen unendliche Schattierungen vor.” (Grass, Schreiben nach Ausschwitz, 1999.)

Or as Billy Joel put it three years later:

„Shades of grey are all that I find

When I look to the enemy line

Black and white was so easy for me

But shades of grey are the colors I see.“

(Billy Joel, 1993)




“The Deserted Park Bench Jacket”: Perspectives on a story with many plots …

Stories are everywhere around us. In every part and place of our lives.

Only: we are often much too busy to see them. Too blinkered by life’s challenges, the haste of getting from A to B, the illusion that life is a to-do list, and idleness evil.

Open senses are all it takes to escape this gridlock that makes so many of us unhappy; open eyes open up new perspectives.

Here’s a story (or rather a couple of possible plots) I literally stumbled upon while running in a close-by park – not away from anything, not towards anything, actually in circles, letting my thoughts do the same.

It’s the story of this deserted park bench jacket.


*Disclaimer: I didn’t put it there for this post.;)

My circling mind started asking: How did it get there? Where does it comes from? Who and where is the man (was it a man, just because it’s a man’s jacket?) who left it there? And why did he do it?

Plot #1:
The jacket belonged to a homeless man. Lying there, taking a rest from life’s endless atrocities and perpetual failed hopes. Fell asleep in the first rays of warm sunlight surrounded by the colour of hope after yet another night in the rainy cold, looking for shelter, in vain. Hungry, thirsty, desperate, and so terribly tired, tired of life. When, after many hours of peaceful slumber, he was approached by strollers checking on him, he didn’t move. An ambulance was called, but arrived only to find out that the nameless man had passed away, covered by death’s cold hand in the late morning sun. Who was this man? What was his story? Which conflicts and pitfalls in his life brought him to this lonely park bench? And why was the jacket still there?

Plot #2.
The jacket belonged to a man in his mid-forties who had been sitting there, trying to collect his thoughts, agonizing over the best way (if there was one) to avert the imminent drama in his life. The U-turn it was about to take, inflicted only by his own stupidity of cheating on his wife. After all that they had been through, one single moment of vain joy now thwarted it all. Would he ever see her again, his son? After his confession and pleas for forgiveness, honest, but (to her) lame promises, she had thrown him out of their house. Marital silence ever since, he was sleeping at a friend’s place. Suddenly, on his walk through the park, mixing fresh air with chain smoke, his phone rang. It was her. Asking if they could meet. Right away. He jumped up in incredulous joy, already on his way while she was still on the phone, completely forgetting his jacket. A happy ending?

Plot #3:
The jacket belonged to a business man who had messed with the wrong people. Pushing his luck for the deal of his life with different parties, closing the bargain with the one side, pissing off the other, like real. And the other party was not the one to piss off. A thing he didn’t know, but was soon to find out on his daily walk in the park to work. The three thugs came out of nowhere, dashing from a blind spot … and then his world went black. Who was / is this man? Is he still alive? Does he have a family? What was the deal about, and what was really behind this ambush? And why did the jacket stay there while its owner has gone missing ever since?

Sounds like fiction? Sure it does, I just made it up. But .. only maybe. Do we know? Do we know ANYTHING about the world around us, our neighbours, every-day passers-by on our way to work?

Maybe the deserted bench jacket story was much more prosaic than this, maybe someone just accidentally left it there while taking his lunch break in the sunny park, fiddling around with his smart phone, then running off in a hurry to get back to work on time. Maybe just someone who didn’t want this shabby jacket anymore, too lazy to throw it into the used-clothes container?

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

There a story behind everything. And everyone’s story has its intriguing moments, twists and surprises. It’s just a question of taking a closer look, a question of perspective, of attitude.

And there is definitely some story up this jacket’s sleeve, behind its former owner for sure. Oh and: next morning the jacket was gone … Woohaah!

After all: Life is stranger than fiction.

The Lopsided Love Story of Mister G. and Mister D., Part 3: The Mix Tape (that changed my life)


Somewhere between getting lost in transmedia and celebrating AOL („Annual Offline Leave“ – you should try it, helps you understand what Lennon meant when he said that “life is what happens while you’re tweeting” … or something like that), I remembered that I wanted to relive the part of my life when a mix tape (o.k., it was a mix CD, but that sounds so … unromantic, so modern, although the round thing itself is already square) actually changed my life. And at the same time catapulted my relationship with Mister G. to another level of intensity.

It started, as it often does, at work. The place where you spend most of your time, and sometimes are lucky enough to meet interesting people with whom you want to be a little more than colleagues – well aware of the company’s ink saying, but what the heck.

That’s where I met her, over 10 years ago now. And, of course, I mean look at her: She already had a boyfriend. Grrrr. What to expect? So it was waiting mode for God knows how long, felt like decades, which sounds pretty “100 Years of Solitute”-like romantic, but was in fact a couple of months, to be honest. Still … an eternity.

Eventually, not in vain.

The tide was turning, the dark knight’s access to the princess’ castle finally denied, for whatever reason, what should I care? This was my “Over The Top” moment, the knight in white satin’s imaginary baseball cap going in reverse, a unique moment and chance in time that I answered with …

… this mix tape (aka CD) titled “Something Beautiful”.

It contained a hell of a collection of songs, broad hint with a capital B. It was clandestinely handed over by a good, discreet and conspiratorial friend … and then the waiting began. Again.

Decades passed.

Naturally, every one of the selected songs had its own story, a story in itself, a story for me, but also a connection to many of the stories that my Queen of Hearts to-be had been going through (as I had heard through the grape-vine and witnessed as a sideline observer). So hopes were high for a favourable, comprehending, comprehensive and, from a music and lyric lover’s perspective, appropriate reaction. A reaction that would show whether she was the right one. A simple “Oh, thanks” would have been just as disappointing as her not liking the kind of music her stalker was offering her, maybe even selecting the wrong, meaning most obvious song as her favourite one, one of those I had chosen from a “she’ll definitely love this one” perspective.

"something beautiful" Broad hint track list


BUT … after waiting an appropriate while before even answering to this unasked-for present, she immediately named THE one song as her favourite that I had indeed put on this compilation as a kind of test balloon to check whether our two clocks were ticking in synch. THE one song that was my favourite song, from my favourite singer, expressing my favourite mood … a massive Broad hint from destiny. Or so I wanted to interpret it.

And the song was … “Sail Away” by David Gray. A song that has never been the same ever since, has probably reached an unsurpassable pool position on the past ten year’s hot rotation lists, has bestowed on us a very special moment at Mister G.’s 2006 concert in Munich, and has been the “Honey Call” tune on my mobile since mobile phones could read mp3’s.

Who knows, maybe without this joint Sail Away passion, we would never have gone out, never have kissed, never have, never have, never have …

OK, probably, if it was really meant to be in the first place, we would have gone out and done all that other stuff anyway, even if she’d had named the eponymous Robbie Williams song that found its way onto “Something Beautiful”.

I prefer the Sail Away story.

True story, true love.

 Sail away with me honey

I put my heart in your hands

Sail away with me honey now, now now.


Holiday … Celebrate … and be grateful, if you can!

It’s that time of the year again, at least in my part of the world. It’s called holiday season, some call it vacation, some annual leave. I like all three of these words:

HOLIDAY = A couple of Holy Days away from everyday life and stress and worries and troubles, or – if you have no troubles – simply a holy time out.

VACATION = A couple of Vacant Days, vacant of everyday life and stress and worries and troubles.

ANNUAL LEAVE = The time of the year when you are able and allowed to leave it all behind, leave everyday life and stress and worries and troubles simply be. In German we say “Den Herrgott einen guten Mann sein lassen.”

That’s where I’m heading: My annual leave time, holy days with family and without digital devices or at least online services, my time that is vacant of what is “normal” – a time that is needed to reboot, to fuel offline thoughts, experience new, non-transmedia stories, stories that will lead to new stories when I re-enter the normality sphere again.

And my time to thank God or this Herrgott (or whoever that is watching over us, but I tend to call him / her that based on a lack of alternatives, or is it just a habit?) that I am in the fortunate position to be able to actually have a normality to leave behind for another holiday-vacation-leave anormality. In times when there are wars raging in over 45 countries on this planet, senseless, meaningless wars that leave behind so many people who would give their lives to experience my normality, the normality I’m fleeing from right now.

It’s a cruel world. Not much I can do about it from here, but it does help to bring everyday life and stress and worries and troubles into perspective. Sure, everything is relative, but still.

I know that I can be happy to be allowed to be happy and healthy – and able to experience stories that are not life-threatening dramas.

Thank you.

Happy Holidays!



Will Transmedia eat itself for lunch? Or is it the end of Storytelling as we know it?

S T O R Y T E L L I N G …
probably mankind’s oldest communication megatrend.

T R A N S M E D I A …
probably one of the most used communication megatrend buzzwords in mankind’s recent history.

T R A N S M E D I A  S T O R Y T E L L I N G …
probably the most promising combination of communication megatrends for the future.

Some may ask: “WTF’s that supposed to be again???”

Here’s an attempt from The Source of Internet Wisdom:

“Transmedia storytelling (also known as transmedia narrative or multiplatform storytelling) is the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.

From a production standpoint, it involves creating content that engages an audience using various techniques to permeate their daily lives. In order to achieve this engagement, a transmedia production will develop stories across multiple forms of media in order to deliver unique pieces of content in each channel. Importantly, these pieces of content are not only linked together (overtly or subtly), but are in narrative synchronization with each other.


A lot of story stuff involved, so I tend to like it, naturally. But also a lot of (digital) technology, channels, platforms. So, really something new? Or just an evolution version of our oldest megatrend, a Storytelling x.0?

Let’s take a look at where the concept stems from:

Transmedia as an idea of collaborative, multi-platform creation and narration origins in the 70’s and 80’s of the last century, in the area of telematic art, where artists experimented with collaborative narration and defined the idea of transmedia.

It soon moved on to the gaming industry, creating so-called Alternate Reality Games (ARG). These are  games that, based on the Internet as a main hub, use(d) multiple other technological platforms like telephones, email and real offline mail to tell and simultaneously create different parts of the game’s story in those medial habitats relevant to the players. So not just transmedia telling,  but transmedia engagement that requires interaction from every gamer in order to bring the game’s plot to the next level. In other words: “Players interact directly with characters in the game, solve plot-based challenges and puzzles, and collaborate as a community to analyze the story and coordinate real-life and online activities.” (Wikipedia) An early example being Ong’s Hat.

The next transmedia stop was cinema, bringing the whole idea of alternate realities not only to the screen itself (where we had long been used to getting immersed in alternate worlds), but also connecting these to our real, every day lives. The most prominent example certainly being 1999’s “Blair Witch Project”:


This was not only a mocumentary, i.e. a piece of fiction pretending to be documentary, but also accompanied by a variety of additional, supporting pieces of content such as faked diaries, police reports or interviews that in itself engaged the audience in a captivating manner, adding to the cinema story’s apparent verisimilitude.

That was 15 years ago, and just the beginning …

Since a couple of years, also the commercial world of business communications has started to smell the rat? As always, the more consumer-oriented businesses are on the fore-front here with pioneers like Nike or Lego, but it won’t be long before the so-called B2B world will catch up.

So what could all of this mean for business communications and marketing? What can we learn from arts and entertainment?

I recently read this article on transmedialab.org that instinctively made me want to caution a “because we can” attitude that often pairs with technological advancements. The article basically was about the next big thing in cinema and henceforth modern storytelling. Not an R&D future project, but already on the audiences’ threshold.

The article begins with a short analysis of the film “APP”. http://www.indiewire.com/article/watch-now-exclusive-trailer-for-app-second-screen-thrillerAPP is the first-ever movie that was written and produced with a 2nd-screen experience in mind, regularly adding content to your phone app while the of the film’s content unfolds on the traditional 1st cinema screen, and thus interrupting the movie’s actual narration.

Hmm, I thought.

Do I like this? Not too sure.

I’ll have to find out…


The article moves on with a glimpse into the labs of Disney’s experiments. These are currently limited to 2nd-screen “content interruptions” to back-catalog films like “The Little Mermaid”, but plans are to integrate the transmedia storytelling idea into the initial screen writing of future film productions.


Hmm, I thought, again.

Ambiguity crawling in …

The angel (or is it the devil?) on my shoulder says something like Yalda Uhl who states that “it is very important to engage children in a narration, and that is very difficult to do nowadays with all the distractions and stimulations that surround them. Adding a distraction in cinemas will definitely not help studios to achieve their goal of creating value or attracting an audience that will return to the cinema in the future”. Yes, says the angel (or devil)! REDUCE the distractions! Foster concentration spans! Concentrate on true narration and storytelling to immerse audiences in your story! Don’t just do stuff, because you technically can, audiences will soon get tired and will want to go back to good old traditional storytelling! Transmedia will eat itself for lunch! I knew it!

Then there’s this devil (or angel?) on the other shoulder talking about “story engagement” instead of boring one-way “story telling”. Making it clear to me that the potential of transmedia entertainment and the disruption of handed-down reception models is not only exiting, but in fact the only way to go. For entertainment as much as for business communications, both of them dealing with humans in the end. That today’s young and thus tomorrow’s adult generation will continue to literally gag for regular interruptions in their lives’ routines … and that linear, beginning-to-end storytelling is over, that no one will listen anymore, if there’s not more interactive engagement, audience involvement and multi-channel disruption.

Listening to both of them I begin to see, as with many things, there will be developments that we can’t stop, that will simply happen (because we CAN and because we as humans will simply WANT it), whether I personally like them or not.

Maybe the following


can help steer technological developments into the right direction:

Not matter which medium, no matter how many of them; not matter how fragmented and scattered:  A well-told, convincing narration offering a high degree of the “Like Me” effect will always work. It doesn’t have to be chronological, but it needs Expectation, Surprise, Conflict and Change. What will change is the people who will create this expectation, add the surprise and conflict spice, foster the narration’s change – this will not be a classical narrator instance anymore, this will be multiple parties engaging in different parts of a story from different angles and perspectives, in different places. But a story it will still be.

No matter what technological developments the future holds, no matter what devices will surface: Technology is simply an enabler, an easer, a multiplier, distributer, a vehicle. The true power lies in the human nature of communication, conversation, and storytelling.

Do listen to, observe your audiences, and maybe(?) realize: The age of (traditional) story TELLING could be over. Never the age of STORY itself, but maybe tomorrow’s audiences will really want fragmentation, want to be stimulated from multiple sources and in multiple places. Of course, THE CONCEPT OF STORY will and cannot change, it’s genuinely human, but: Maybe the future is indeed more about story ENGAGEMENT, involving audiences actively in plot creation or character development. This would radically influence scripting, e.g. by taking devices and reception environments into consideration when writing a story’s various chapters.

Again, all of this holds true not only in arts and entertainment, but also in business, along the infamous, much recited “customer journey”, a journey that is getting more and more complicated, but – if you listen and truly get involved – ever more rewarding for all story and hence conversation participants.

Devil or Angel. Angel or Devil. Both?

Exciting, to say the least.

Hmm, I say.


How Does Story Relate to Business?

herr dennehy:

Although I find the following video a little too self-adverstising, and the first 30 seconds are basically a not-to-click teaser, I urge you to go beyond this initial downer.

Because: the essence of Robert McKee’s take on business story quoted here is actually worth inhaling:

  1. Allow the positive AND the negative!
  2. Don’t be afraid of EMOTIONS! All decisions, no matter how rational, cause change. And change causes emotion.

  3. Stories equip us to live. Data and pie charts do NOT!

  4. History’s best (or most influential) leaders (political, business, wherever) have been great storytellers, using stories to lead.

Now that’s definitely a good start to creating more meaningful, more convincing, more persuasive content in business communications.

Give it a try!

Originally posted on Story Blog:

Robert McKee has taught Story-in-Business all over the world. This quick clip from Brazil hints at some of the content of his one-day seminar.

Six Classic Errors in Business Story:

  1. Telling your story from the company’s view.
  2. Talking to the customer in the third person.
  3. Avoiding reality as way too “heavy”.
  4. Creating a gratuitious feel-good factor.
  5. Avoiding exact detail in the search for universality.
  6. Calling rhetorical exercises “stories” when they are only directed at the mental processes.

Featured Article:

Harvard Business Review: “Robert McKee on Storytelling That Moves People”

Why is persuasion so difficult, and what can you do to set people on fire? In search of answers to those questions, HBR senior editor Bronwyn Fryer paid a visit to Robert McKee, the world’s best-known and most respected screenwriting lecturer. Read more.

Fall Seminar Dates

View original

The Lopsided Love Story of Mister G. and Mister D., Part 2: The Trip

“A part of me pre
A part of me post
A part of me present
One part of me ghost
A part of me wants to run.”

David Gray, “As The Crow Flies” (2014)


This is the story about pre me getting to know Mister G.:

It was sometime in the autumn of 1999, probably a rainy day, as autumn days tend to be. I was hanging around record stores with my friend and flat mate Martin, as so often in those days. In one of the more major-label stores in town, I literally (true story!) tripped over a massive Warner Bros. promotion stand advertising “White Ladder” (which is interesting, as the album was never really released with Warner Bros., but on David’s own label “IHT Records” under license to Warner Music UK Ltd., but probably IHT wouldn’t have had a stand in that record store, so there you go).

Anyway. I don’t know how or why, but somehow I felt, simply by looking at the cover, that I was standing in front of something different, something special, something that didn’t quite fit into this mainstream record store’s usual repertoire. I stepped a little closer, reached out for one of the CD’s that had fallen to the ground …

And then …

…All surrounding ambient sound faded. The atmosphere  became eerie, lights dimmed. A distant voice whispered into my ear “This record will change your life!”. It was like I had jumped the tracks of time and space. Fog coming from where the record store’s loudspeakers were, a very mystical Galadriel moment …

And then …

Nothing. Little storyteller’s detour, freedom to exaggerate and put the subtext into perspective. :) In real life, the store was boring and unmystically commercial, no ghosts of past-away singer-songwriter gods around directing me to my new love. I guess…

But I did indeed reach for one of the CD’s I had knocked down off of their pedestal, looked at the simple, yet somehow secretive cover, flipped sides, struck by the design’s focus on content, i.e. songs. Only 10, perfect amount. 8 always too close to an EP, suggesting a lack of material, 12 still ok, but already on the verge of being too much to grasp an album at first listening. Turning the CD back around, there was (and still is, I’ve never taken it off) this sticker with a review quote from “The Times”, saying: “It’s a record that makes your life feel better by its mere existence.” To date, this remains the best compliment for any artistic work that I’ve ever read. And a knock-down argument for me to buy the CD. Which I did.

The mother of all CD cover stickers! You can even see my hand reaching out to climb the White Ladder. :)
The mother of all CD cover stickers! You can even still see the hand reaching out to climb the White Ladder. :)

Guess this is what you call love at first sight, like meeting a woman in a bar or the office, knowing: This is the one. The beginning.

What happened next: overzealous attempts to get to know this new lover better, discover his history like an archeologist, getting lost in endless hours of hot rotations. Putting flesh to the bones of my new passion at the end of a century, secretly hoping Mister G. would be mine, be mine, remain mine, that he wouldn’t sell, sell, sell (out).

White Ladders’ drum intro alone: a statement, a clear move from raw singer-songwriting (that we know from album 1-3) to courageous upbeat folk pop without the often attached cheesiness. Creating an immediate atmosphere of minor mood turning into major pleasure, a promise the album is able to keep right up to the last chord after 57:17 minutes (excluding UK bonus track “(I Can’t Get) Through to Myself” and US bonus track “Babylon II”).

If that doesn’t get to you, nothing will:


This is the official video incl. David’s congenial ex-drummer Craig McClune, always a sensationally entertaining counterpart to his boss whenever they performed together – and I must admit: I have been missing him ever since he split up with David in 2006!

It’s tough to even select favourite tunes from this perfect album, but if I had to (which I gladly don’t), I’d definitely go for:

I. “This Year’s Love” (in this amazing live version):


II. “Nightblindness”, e-very-specially in this just mind-blowing live version from the London Roundhouse, unfortunately only the audio on YouTube, so close your eyes and escape for 11:05 minutes, worth every second:


III. (of course!) “Sail Away”, a single that literally changed my life … the intro of this live version being my official “Honey Ringtone” ever since it was published on the “Draw the Line” Deluxe Edition:



PART 3 will be exploring the power of a song with its own story to change mine at the probably most important crossroads of my life so far …

The Lopsided Love Story of Mister G. and Mister D., Part 1: Prologue

Mutineers … Mister G.’s new album. Took him five years! Worth the wait?


First of all, a rather appropriate title for this medium-late chapter in the love story of Mister G. and Mister D. (a story only the latter is aware of, naturally).

Why? Well, I was veeery close to becoming mutinous with this Englishman after his last couple of albums. Not that I hated them, not at all, but I also couldn’t quite come around to truly loving them either. Even after many intensive listening sessions, I was always left with this feeling of “not bad, but nothing special”. Granted, a tough task for any artist to continuously come up with “something special” or “something even better” than the previous, especially for David after his 1998 masterpiece “White Ladder” – one of those records I would put amongst the infamous three to take to a deserted island with me. (Note to myself: Nobody ever asks you how you would actually listen to that record on a deserted island … ah whatever.)

Ever since David chose to sing about a “Life in Slow Motion”, that’s also kind of what happened to my infatuation with his music: A slow-motion of drifting apart, again only noticed by the D. side of the relationship, I presume.

Then a good friend of mine forwards a Financial Times article to me, an interview with David Gray, about birds (with and without wings), and about his new album – I wasn’t even aware that there was a new album forthcoming, that’s how detached I had become, never happened before. The interview was also about mutining your life, throwing all that’s behind you over board, starting anew, in fresh waters, into fresh air, like the many birds on this great new record.

Even while reading the article, I opened my Spotify treasure chest, checking. There it was, only three tracks pre-released for streaming, the first single’s title “Back in the World”. Back in mine? Sure feels good, to shake the monkey off my back …

As the first chords resound: White Ladder feeling, at least justified hope. The initial lines go:

“Every day when I open my eyes now

It feels like a Saturday

Taking down from the shelf

All the parts of myself that I packed away.”

I was taken away on the spot, by the sound, the mood, the “Please forgive me”-like percussion, the lyrics, and the voice, of course, strong as ever.


The second track available was “Beautiful Agony”. Hell yeah, the beauty of melancholy! My hidden passion. David singing about

“Love vandalising me

With beautiful agony.”

Who doesn’t know what he’s talking about? And then this calm, non-vandalising melody, moving from mantra to story with a free fall into minor keys accompanying the lines “Once upon a time / It wasn’t like this / Love was mine / So what the hell / Is happening here?”.

The third track: “Gulls”. A meditative album ending (as the partly inactive 11-track list suggested), an end-is-the-beginning-like song. The narrator maybe standing on the edge of a windy cliff, watching gulls fly, independent, yet somehow belonging to their cries, and their cries belonging to the wind … and the wind?

David’s rendition of “You Gotta Serve Somebody”?

“I gave my breath to the song

To the song, wasn’t mine

Neither of ship not of sea

Neither of glass nor of wine.”


LOVE RELOADED, after 3 songs!

And oh, how I love this percolating impatience, to get more, to hear the rest. This instant move to an online retail store, clicking “pre-order now”, and then waiting … waiting … waiting. Waiting for and then finally receiving a parcel, a vintage, deluxe feeling in the age of “I want it now, I get it now!” Of course I ordered the deluxe edition, with tons of new live recording of old songs. Arrived yesterday, and now I’m listening my way through the remaining 8 tracks … Soccer World Cup my behind!


But how did this lopsided love story between Mister G. and Mister D. begin in the first place?

Let me recall “the early years” … in Part 2 of this mutineer’s anecdote.

… How stumbling in a record store turned out to be a very consequential trip.

… And why “Sail Away” is responsible for “This Year’s Love” turning into “This Life’s Love”.

The StorycodeX of Expectation, Surprise and Change; Introducing “Hero 2.0”!!!

A couple of months ago, I introduced a schematic, illustrative version of what I believe is the essence of any good, real story: the “StorycodeX”. A very basic how-to and what-to-include. A code with must-have elements, but also a code that allows “X” variations, no one-fits-all execution, but a necessary basis in order to reach your storytelling purpose; be it entertainment, information, infotainment, messaging, catharsis, action, … you name it.

It started off like this, with Story Arc Phase 1:











Isn’t that course almost every one of today’s so-called corporate or business “stories” is taking? It begins somewhere … and goes nowhere. Nuthin happenin. Boring! Like totally.

Gladly, there is always an end to this misery, but it’s not a story’s end, it’s an mpeg’s end, and sometimes this misery is a loooong torture. Such communication products are indeed a serious hazard to our mental and physical health, no kiddin, head injuries from falling asleep and banging your head on the table being just one of many to caution.

So, what we at least need is to rouse a little bit of EXPECTATION on the audience’s side, EXPECTATION that the above arrow is actually leading somewhere. And this somewhere needs to be a place we actually want to travel to:



OK, now what happens when you create high EXPECTATIONS? Right: You’re gonna have to deliver. Deliver something interesting to the audience, something you ex- or implicitly promised in the first phase or your story arc. This suggestion can be made by means of story content (meaning the What, action or words) or story making (meaning the How of story creation, music, visuals, etc.). But if you create false hopes with cheesy, cheap special effects or bull-shit-bingo slogans, and then the above arrow goes on in an infinity loop of boredom, and there also goes your audience!

To avoid this mess, Story Arc Phase 2 kicks in:











Ideally, this something happening is something SURPRISING, but definitely it needs to be something meaningful. Meaningful not for you as producer or maybe even the narrator, if you have one, but meaningful for the immanent story logic and its hero(es):












Such an incident again needs to ignite a new sense of EXPECTATION, a hope that this SURPRISING development in scene or action will actually lead somewhere, somewhere else, somewhere new, somewhere unexpected. Because: If just anything happens, expected or not, and the dotted arrow of boredom we started off with slithers on as before: There goes your audience, again. But this time it’s not only bored, now it’s also angry! Because you fooled them, lured them it into watching, listening or reading for longer than initially planned. And then (gee, you actually almost had them!): disappointment galore. Thank you for flying with Never Come Back Airlines!

What the audience was hoping, ideally even gagging for was: a turn in the story’s plot, in the hero’s life, leading him (or her, or them) to a different place (literally or psychologically, spiritually) as a consequence of everything that happened before. Hero and audience are confronted with a different world than when the narration commenced, and both need to deal with it:



This altered direction is indeed a story’s (and in fact life’s) vital ingredient #1, an ingredient every good story ever told has (literally making story a metaphor for life). I’m talking about CHANGE:











But no CHANGE without life’s vital ingredient #2: CONFLICT. Corporations hate this beast, lock it up in a cage, try to kill it in every part of their shiny, the-world-is-perfect advertising and PR, but the son of a gun somehow always manages to escape!

Life is full of CONFLICT. CONFLICT is life’s spice, the only ingredient that really fosters CHANGE – as in story. So, if life or a story just steadily flows like a calm river without anything happening, without any CONFLICT occurring, the result might be great for meditation, but when it comes to purposeful, infotaining storytelling, what you get is one great big “YAWN”. This CONFLICT need not be explicit or even literally happening: inner conflict or narrations in retrospect are very often even more exiting modes of storytelling than the in-your-face alternative.

So, somewhere above (or below or in the midst of) every plot, every action (f)lies:











CONFLICT, however, should never be a self-serving element, a shocker, a special effect. It needs to happen to someone, this someone being (oh, quelle surprise!) a human being. Not a product. Not a solution. Not a service. Generally: Not a thing. So if anyone comes around asking you to create a campaign where “the product is the hero”: Fire him! And if you can’t fire him, cause he’s your boss, please argue him out of this idea. “The product is the hero” communication efforts are the most dangerous of all in regards to the afore-mentioned banging-your-head-on-the-table hazard!

Seriously, I know it sounds real wacky and kind of common sense, but decades of engineers and product managers becoming part- or full-time communicators, decades of one-way make-believe and hiding-lies-behind-effects advertising is over. Maybe not completely, yet. Maybe not today, completely. But soon, definitely.

So, to complete the StorycodeX and give the picture both its frame and its core, I proudly present the conversion of HERO 1.0 (the one who started his journey on the left side of boredom arrow, lived through EXPECTATION, SURPRISE and CHANGE in one or numerous iterations, depending on the story’s epicness) into HERO 2.0 (a different version of the same person, altered, in a positive or negative way) through CONFLICT:



CONFLICT and business communications rejecting this phenomenon so fervently, refusing the acknowledgement of the negative is a great topic, definitely worth a blog post here … maybe some other day… :)

What if Giving up Control were not a Threat, but an Opportunity?

Copyright: article.wn.com


Let’s admit it: We’re all losing control.

First of all, in the part of life that we call private life.

Where the day starts with an always-charged, smart-ass smart phone coldly grinning at me, relentlessly turning Beethoven’s wonderful “Klavierkonzert Nr. 5 Es-Dur” into my own personal groundhog-day experience. Gladly, this hasn’t spoilt my love for this concerto yet: For years now, I prefer being carried from the land of peaceful sommeil et rêves to the gates of daylight by Ludwig’s silent power than by Steve’s awful ringtone selection or distressingly well-tempered radio hosts.

Still, Beethoven aside, that’s the first loss of control of the day. Over my morning. A control (I thought) I used to have, at least before my own school days when there was just me and eternity. And also after school’s early-bird-my-ass 13 years, at university, when I could freely decide whether to get up for some early-morning lecture, or not. Probably that was an illusion, too … Aaah, whatever!

But now control’s definitely gone, along with the good-night’s sleep from pre-children days that used to precede the alarm bell’s toll.

The rest of an average day just goes with a flow that doesn’t seem to be mine (or ours, more correctly) anymore: Shower, tooth-brush, razor. Wardrobe, kitchen, espresso machinetta. Wake up kids, dress up kids, breakfast kids. School, kindergarten, metro. First mails, social channel check, maybe a little Spotify or FM4 on the train, blocking the rest of the underground world with my on-ears. Then it’s on to the office with its own very special affluent of Outlook, multiple phones, meetings, inter-desk chats, occasional join lunch breaks and … social channel checks.  Metro back home, social channel check, more in a rush than in the morning. Dinner, kids to bed, cleaning up. 2100 hrs sharp: time for twosomeness, music, movies or … maybe writing a blog post?

But then: Swoosh! In comes this invisible force from out of nowhere, hangs leaden weights to my eye lids, message clear: Don’t fight it! You’re tired! Go to sleep … maybe last chance for a social channel check, then … zzzzzz.

OK, I may be overegging the pudding a little, but the point is clear: Life has taken control of me, not visa versa. But it’s never too late to fight back!

If only I weren’t so tired … :)



Then there is this other part of life that we call business life.

And I’m not speaking work-life balance here, that’s an outdated, unrealistic concept anyway in the age of smart iDevices (not “i” as in internet, but “i” as in “i am the device and the device is me”).

I’m talking about the life of a business, of a company, of a cooperation, call it what you like.

Whereas I personally admit to the fact that I’m losing control and maybe have slight hope of escaping as time goes by, (most) enterprises actually still believe they are in control – a control they have literally already lost, and will never get back. In control of the products they produce and sell (Henry Ford’s many heirs still alive, producing cars in various shades of black: Shut up, eat your spinach, it’s good for you!). In control of the people they can hire, retain, or fire. And (this is most obviously the biggest heretic belief) in control of their brands, their reputation, their communication efforts.

Will anybody out there please wake up, open your eyes, put an oversized espresso machinetta on the stove, extra strong, and realize that the times they are a-changing, or better: have already a-changed???

Read a brief history of the Internet, then come again. It’s been a long time coming …

… So: What does this mean?

“Companies that don’t realize their markets are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.” (cluetrain.com, Thesis 18)

Opportunity is the right word. Not threat, as many still see it. Challenge maybe, yet a threat only for companies who decide to remain lonely regents of Shannon-Weaver Island. But opportunity for those who recognize that the sender-recipient model has served it’s time.

In private-life situations where networked kids are getting smarter, no longer just say “SIR, YES, SIR!” when you tell them what to do, but – like it or not – want to understand, want discourse, want dialogue, want to be taken seriously, and embark on a life-long conversation journey with their parents. And this is quite admirable, actually.

And in business-life situations all the same holds true for companies and their “kids”, which they disparagingly call stakeholders, users, target groups. But they’re actually people, human beings. Employees, customers, investors, journalists, bloggers, talents, politicians, etc.etc.etc. And as my kids are getting smarter by the day with their own real-life Internet (still very offline, gladly), so are a company’s kids, aided by the powerful global conversation that has begun through the Internet, “getting smarter – and getting smarter faster than most companies.” (cluetrain.com)

Whereas the Cluetrain Manifesto was at the time (very far-sighted, considering it was 1999) describing what was going on in a (compared to nowadays limited) community of Internet users and how this would need to impact the way corporations talk and act towards these networked, conversation-driven markets, I would like to take this notion a step further:

What if the future of companies, corporations and brands is a future, in which their brand story and their image no longer belongs to them?

What if these networked communities would not only co-create campaigns or isolated contents for companies (as they already do increasingly often today), but co-create and co-develop entire brands, communicatively manipulate a brand’s genes, its DNA? Co-write their history, story and stories?

What if reputation management wasn’t a thing a company could do by itself or have an expensive agency do, but something that is taken over by its “stakeholders”?

And now, while this still sounds like a threat, like a mob raging outside my fortress walls, here’s another thought:

What if … the above were all things a corporation would DELIBERATELY do?
Meaning: Go from telling “Who We Are!” to asking “Who Are We?” or “Who Should We Be?”

Imagine the outcome!

Imagine the level of relevance, content (as in “Zufriedenheit”), and respect you could harvest!

Imagine that you couldn’t imagine who you would be as a brand in, say, 50 years!

Imagine you could build a business not on ROI (Return on Invest), but on ROT (Return on Trust) or ROL (Return on Love)!

And in the end, the love you get is equal to the love you give.” (The Beatles, “The End”)

Gee, scary thought.

The recipient would become the sender, the sender the recipient. The crowd would become part of the communications, marketing and brand department, and corporate comms would diffuse in the crowd. True emancipation, the foundation stone for every lasting relationship that makes love and trust its pillars.

Taking Poe’s “Man of the Crowd” to the next level: The follower doesn’t simply watch his target vanish into the crowd, but would actually follow. Dive into a kind of Great Link like DS9’s Odo and his fellow shape-shifters, a place where sender and recipient, comms department and target groups, brands and stakeholders amalgamate, for the benefit of both …

Copyright: treknews.net

Freakin’ esoteric stuff!

So let’s better round this off with something more down-to-earth.

With the famous words of Robert Zimmerman:

“Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown

And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'”


Thank you, Bob! Right on!