more about Persiflage

Persiflage: A Brief History

PERSIFLAGE, as we all know, was begun in March of 2001. But, of course, the germination of the idea of PERSIFLAGE began some time earlier.

Mr. Hugh Briss, was, by 2001, already an accomplished writer, editor and publisher. He had, for instance, been responsible for the ground breaking magazine, Steamroller, which had been required reading for Winnipeg’s hipster intelligentsia in the late 80s. He had, also, long been a participant in the open mike and coffee house scene in that thriving city.

In the early years of this millennium though, Briss had noticed that there was a sad lack of adequate reading materials in the cafes he liked to frequent. This was a social ill that he felt he must address. And so he conceived of a weekly magazine featuring superlative prose with keen and searching critical essays, intelligent literary fiction, fine poetry and the gleanings of his personal floregium.

The early months of 2001 were spent assembling staff for the new venture and raising the necessary capital. Briss’s old university friend Elrose Watermuldar, an artist and writer of some note, was one of the earliest persuaded to come aboard.

The first issue featured two essays by Mr. Briss himself and a poem by the minor French poet Charles Roche-Bobois that was translated by Briss. But do not make the mistake of thinking that this was a one man show. Many people were involved behind the scenes. Let us pause for a moment to silently thank all those folks without whom this enterprise would not have thrived, thriven, survived.

Initially the publication was distributed to cafes, coffee shops, tearooms, cafeterias and the lobbies of the finer hotels but in the wink of an eye (or just over three months) it spread to bars, lounges, licenced restaurants and, rather oddly, sporting goods stores.

Wherever intelligent well-read idlers with a certain smarty-assy je ne sais quoi gathered you could find PERSIFLAGE. Production doubled and then trebled. More staff were taken on and the little magazine throve, thrived, did well.

But the pressures of producing a first rate publication and every week were extreme and so a decision was made in 2002 to reduce the overall quality. The consensus was that it was time to start producing a second or even third rate publication.

If you look at issues from this period you will notice that a) articles are often rerun, b) a number of the jokes are quite laboured, c) some of the quotations are actually abbreviated and finally, d) they are not very good.

But even with these measures the strain of putting out PERSIFLAGE each week was proving too much for the staff and so the following year Briss decided it was time to change to a monthly format.

A number of monthly issues were put out before Persiflage returned to the weekly format in 2004. I have no idea why. It is possible that Briss found that the attention of the staff wandered when they weren’t working to a deadline each and every week but that is really just speculation on my part. At any rate February 20th, 2004 marked the resurrection of the weekly format.

Things continued on in a rather uninteresting manner until the late summer of that year. There is then a sizeable lacuna until the reappearance of PERSIFLAGE in the fall of the following year. No one associated with PERSIFLAGE would speak to me on or off the record about that period and so I can say nothing to you about it. It is one of those historical mysteries that may never be solved.

But very exciting things did happen in 2005! PERSIFLAGE went on the world wide web.

A typical Week at Persiflage…

MONDAY

9 AM – Art Department meeting: this is when we decide on all the backgrounds and images that appear on the site. Most of these are hand painted by the many BFA students we have working in the basement here so this must be decided early in the week.
10:15 AM (approximately) – Editorial Board meeting: usually me, Watermuldar and Kind, sometimes Hugo if he is not too busy going over copy.
11 AM – Meet with news interns to see if they have found anything interesting in one of the over 200 local, national or international papers that PERSIFLAGE subscribes to, that warrants comment or even a feature article.
11:30 AM – Writers’ Meeting – a one on one meeting with that week’s featured writer. Usually involves some screaming and sometimes violence.
NOON – Lunch.
2 PM – Nap. I find a heavy lunch (is there any other kind?) leaves me sleepy.
3 PM – Teleconference with C.F. Maynard and his team of sound engineers to discuss the week’s audio segment. Very technical. I usually drink a latte to stay awake.
4 PM – Happy Hour. If I am still here I mix myself a Rum Collins or Manhattan in my office. Watermuldar is usually here sitting at the bar. Often we listen to some Xavier Cugat on the Hi-Fi.
5 or 6 PM – Homeward bound.

TUESDAY

9 AM – Sorting through my mail (e and non-e) with my secretary Donald. Then, often a little dictation if I am feeling dictatorial (ha ha).
10 AM – Meeting with accountants and Head of the Finance Department, also called Donald. Much talk about diversifying our portfolio (whatever that means). Why does Persiflage have soybean futures?
10:30 AM – Coffee with Gore Vidal.
10:45 AM – Meeting with designer to look at swatches for the new banquettes in the cafeteria.
NOON – Chamber of Commerce lunch.
3 PM – Napping in office (too many Manhattans at lunch).
3:30 PM – Second Art Department meeting to approve main and column backgrounds. Classified column needed to be repainted.
4 PM – Happy Hour. Listened to a lot of Tito Puente and some Machito. Drank mojitos just to be thematically correct. Used my new muddler.
4:45 PM – Homeward bound. Got a ride with Donald (the mailroom guy).

WEDNESDAY

9 AM – Classifieds Meeting – Cindy and Marjolene, the girls who handle the classifieds, showed up with a tin of fresh Night Cookies, bonushausen!
10:30 AM – Coffee break – spent on phone with Gore Vidal – long distance.
11:15 AM – Layout meeting with design team.
11:25 AM – IT meeting re: the installation of a bank of powerful new card-reading (they’re back!) super-computers in the Main Computer Room in the Annex. Also discussed: off-colour or “naughty” mouse pads.
1 PM – Late lunch with U Thant’s grandson. Interesting.
2:30 PM – Impromptu thumb wrestling with Watermuldar. Building the tiny ring took up a lot of the time.
3 PM – Watched part of an Antonio Sabato Jr. movie on television. Very underrated actor.
4 PM – Happy Hour. Invented a new drink. Very hush hush.
6 PM – Dinner with Gore Vidal. When did the Old Swiss Inn start serving Thai food?
9:30 PM – Homeward bound. The bus.
10 PM – Bubble bath (cucumber and kiwi).
11 PM – Cup of Postum and several online games of tic tac toe.
11:59 PM – Start writing this.