Lumberjacks, Eric Lundquist and “Disrupted: My Misadventures in the Start-Up Bubble”

In the blood” is a delightful remembrance of timbering in the northern Maine woods which thrived for about 100 years from the mid 1800s. Producer Sumner McKane and another musician put music  to old videos of the river log drives and spliced it with interviews with the lumberjacks when they were very old.

A gift from Eric Lundquist
A gift from Eric Lundquist

Such honest and basic work stands in stark contrast to the phoniness of digital marketing that Dan Lyons describes in his new and acclaimed book: “Disrupted: My Misadventures in the Start-Up Bubble.” I am halfway through the book, which rips work life at the digital marketing company, HubSpot in Cambridge, Mass. Ann and I and two friends saw “In the Blood” last night at The Firehouse in Newburyport, Mass.

I couldn’t help make the comparison of timber cutting and digital marketing given how different they are. I also attended the book party Thursday night so Lyons and his work are on my mind (a full review will be posted this week). Lyons exposes HubSpot as chaotic and profitless company run by 20 somethings, many right out of college. He concludes early on in his employment there that it produces little of value.

“In the Blood” is described as a “film that is an illustration of the life, skills, and character of the turn-of-the-century Maine lumbermen & river drivers.” If Lyons is to be believed, real skills and character are what’s missing at HubSpot, not that the people are bad. They’re just clueless, inexperienced and poorly led, Lyons observes.

Lumberjacks defied death as they hopped from log to log afloat in treacherous currents and lived in cramped and filthy conditions, but professed to have loved it when they were interviewed in the 1970s (one old-timer described what it was like with 18 men sleeping in a single bed and that they ate beans 21 times a week). HubSpot has a candy wall and other cushy perks found in start-ups. The atmosphere is cult like, unquestioning and ceaselessly “chipper” to use a descriptor from the book.

The lumberjacks or yore provided lumber for things like houses, ships and barns. HubSpot basically spams consumers, says Lyons. It’s more than a little sad that the world and certainly investors value what HubSpot does more than the work of lumberjacks.

A couple of asides to better connect these far apart dots: Lyons during his year or so at HubSpot escapes to the northern Maine woods to clear his head from the craziness and chaos of his work at HubSpot. Perhaps in his search for sanity, he was unconsciously following the ghostly footsteps of the lumberjacks.

The photo is a VHS tape “From Stump to Ship” which is a compilation of old videos of the lumberjacks from the 1930s. Some are used in “In the Blood.” The tape was a gift from the late journalist Eric Lundquist, a close and very grounded friend who loved people like lumberjacks and their working class bona fides (this is man whose ashes were spread in the back yard). He also eschewed much of the fluff that is today’s digital marketing as most journalists do today.


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