Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Stuff from a previous post has made in here - woo hoo! (Scroll down to the bottom, sillys). Onwards, ever onwards.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Commercial 8: Litcasting

If only department, from this piece of podcasting puffery. Good see braining up going on in Berliner-land:

If it's difficult for the newcomer to understand the difference between a
podcast and an ordinary radio programme, this may be because the bulk of the top
25 podcasts available through the iTunes music store on a given day are ordinary
radio programmes, including Chris Moyles Radio 1 show, Chris Evans's Radio 2
show, Frank Kermode's Radio 5 Live show, and Radio 4's programmes In Our Time
and From Our Own Correspondent. But we have always been able to record the radio and listen to it later; it just never proved compelling enough to bother. What
is it about this new technology that makes listening to yesterday's Today
programme tomorrow such a tantalising possibility?

Commercial 7: Everyone should have porpoise in their working lives

Whale. Thames. Pandemonium. But this is the best job title in the world:

Earlier today Liz Sandeman, a marine mammal medic who went out in a
lifeboat to examine the whale, said: "It looks quite healthy and quite relaxed.
It's breathing normally and its weight seems good."

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Commercial 6: Brand essences 2

"Our primary product is progress."

Ronald Reagan, when he used to shill for GE. An expanded variation on the theme can be found here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Word count haiku 1

First in an occasional series which relies heavily on the site Word Count, one of the most beautiful sites anywhere (all hail presiding genius Jonathan Harris).

For Bunny, whose search for The Big Love is endlessly inspiring.

Commercial 5: What ex-wives of rockstars do

From darling Hadley's column a few days ago, in answer to the question, "Where is the best place to buy flattering jeans with the help of experienced and wise sales representatives?":

"The best place by far in London for denim shopping is in Shoreditch at Start on Rivington Street (020-7739 3636), where the totally brilliant Brix (formerly married to Mark E Smith of the Fall, but far more cheery than you would think from that biographcal detail) will sort you out."

So when we move we will have no excuse not to look new media fabulous, dahling.

Commercial 4: Only 341 shopping days until Christmas

So why not start getting your presents now? Furry critters available from the Uberpup shop, while mugs, T-shirts and limited edition prints are available at the main Uberpup kennel.

The countdown clock can be found here.

Drill communication

Wow. Who knew that dental fraud could earn you £100,000? And he might have got away with it if he had copied someone who didn't have the shakes. For our American readers, this is not the sole reason why people in the UK have such bad teeth.

Exercises in the higher banter

(or, Why This Blog Has The Subtitle It Has)

"“At the same time, [Isiah] Berlin's letters are also a mark of his deracination. Their distinction lies not so much in their subject matter (though Berlin fixations such as the Zionist state recur) as in their tone. Essentially, what we have here is a series of exercises in the Higher Banter - the criticisms rapidly receding into a fog of subordinate clauses, the opinions dexterously concealed beneath a wall of self-deprecation, what Berlin wants from his particular correspondent lost in ingratiating compliments."
DJ Taylor, Jewels from the high table', The Observer, 28 March 2004

"“In theory, there is no alpha. It'’s all beta because somebody'’s alpha is somebody else'’s negative alpha."
Paul Marshall, Marshall Wace, The Guardian Weekend, 24 September 2005

Monday, January 16, 2006

Fiction 1: The glorious twentieth

So just what is going on? I'd suspect that the latent bipolarity in me is starting to assert itself, if that didn't sound so damn melodramatic.

Still, I'm losing all the threads that I've generated in the days since Saturday; insights that come at 4am are not necessarily the ones that are sharp enough to last. A good thing? Perhaps. But I thought it might have been valuable to remember where I was now going in my emotional life.

I'm scared too. So up, then so down. I didn't expect to be crying at 7.45am on the Bakerloo line, just because Ed Harcourt sang something. And they were real tearstuds too.

And all because, and all because I've fucked it up. Yet. Again. A text with a request to talk (at which I would apologise for being a heel, and confirm that there will be no romantic gestures, no inappropriate declarations) has not been replied to, and I am bereft, as bereft as I've ever been. A simple thing has become huge, bigger than it should be, threatening the preciousness of what we have (had?), and I just can't believe I've done it. Again.

So now it appears that my only redemption is patience. To wait. For a response, for a few weeks. In the hope that next time, whenever it is, if it is, my keel will be even, my head clearer, and a calm can reign again.

And did I say I'm sorry? Because I am, for making you feel bad for making me feel bad, because that was never the idea. And I'm sorry for causing you fear too, of what might happen. Who said that the not knowing is easy? It's as bad as the regret.

And the insomnia, fuelled by champagne and red wine and heat and Nurofen, has me in its mild grip now. The musical self-medication is failing too. I almost couldn't breathe when Michael sang, "Don't throw your hand". Because what else am I to do? I've gambled and lost again. Get up and leave. And don't hurt anyone anymore. Don't hurt you anymore. Can I do it? The next years of bliss depend upon it.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The sub editor's fear of the semi-colon 1

From Metro on January 13 2006. And you just know that the sub was very pleased with that headline. Was a perfect fit with the image, what she was wearing, no doubt the pink Razr phone being plugged. And will it be on a colour page? Of course it will...

(And no, I haven't done anything sneaky like grayscale it in Photoshop, you suspicious scamps.)

Grist. Mill. Discuss 3: Horses for courses

Not sure that a rant from me on the ultimate futility of bringing a prosecution like this, or a speculation on the state of mind of the particular individual concerned at the Crown Prosecution Service will add to the sum total of human happiness.

Instead, let us have fun with puns: what's the best line combining horses and homosexuality that we can come up with? There's got to be a 'Tipping the National Velvet' headline out there, surely? And how do we tell if a horse is that way inclined? A preference for jockeys with pink silks?

Commercial 3: Light bulb plug

Huge Dan Flavin retrospective opens this week at the Hayward. My friend Jacky is curating/organising it. Brief NIB here. Go go go people!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Capsule 1: Jarhead

Three thoughts after exiting the suck:

1. War is choreographed as much as any ballet. Boneshaking and brutal yes, but some filigree moments can be discerned as well:
  • the quickest way to shift a large number of marines to the void is scheduled flights on TWA (what, no Hercules transporter?). There is perhaps an implicit criticism here of the hollowed out army that now passes for modern forces, and the resulting ever-lengthening supply chain - TWA is, of course, no longer flying
  • the fact that you have shot nothing for four days (and indeed you will only fight for those four days) and that you have permission for the shot counts for nothing when a ranking officer arrives with a whole box of flash-bang wallop tricks, and blows your target up for son et lumiere kicks
  • there is an invisible thread that will instinctively pull a troop of six men into the correct shape to deal with a possible or imminent threat.
2. The colour of war is black. The grinding light of the desert and the infernal glow of burning nights doesn't mask the fact that war is charred bodies, setting fire to shit, grime, oil raining in your face. Roger Deakins' superbly rough-textured yet grainy cinematography brings it so close that you can feel the sand in your throat, especially as Swoff vomits a stream of it.

3. The only victory you need to concern yourself with is staying sane while waiting; for the start, the kill, the end.

Commercial 2: Brand essences 1

First in an irregular series showing that brand essences (or if you prefer, single organising principles) of companies need not be empty vessels provided by expensive consultancies, but instead can be unexpected, and found in unexpected places:

"Stanley, Peter Bart, and I spent time together strategizing the future of Paramount.
'Every half-assed guy in the business is making films about where it's at,' said Stanley. 'Let's take a different road, Bob... give the audience something they haven't had for a while - stories about how it feels.'
Paramount's strategy of telling stories about how it feels was the secret flag we were going to carry in the years to come."

Robert Evans, The Kid Stays In The Picture, p 178

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Commercial 1: Ovine, o mores!

News this morning of a judgement from the Advertising Standards Authority about two adverts from brewers Young's & Co.

The adverts, part of the 'This is a ram's world' campaign that the brewery currently has running (and which has run before) have been censured by the ASA. One featured a 'ram' (a man with a ram's head) holding court at a gentleman's club. The other showed a similar man/ram surrounded bikini-clad ewes... sorry, women, by a swimming pool. (You can see some other parts of the campaign at

Of the two adverts, the ASA says:

The ASA considered that the posters depicted the 'ram' at the centre of social attention and were likely to be seen as linking alcohol with social success... We [also] considered that a man with a ram's head would not be seen to be attractive and that the poster did not therefore link alcohol with enhanced attractiveness. For the same reason, we considered that the scene did not suggest the 'ram' would be sexually successful with the women around the pool. We considered, however, that the strap line "This is a ram's world" emphasised that Young's drinkers were personified by the ram; the poster, by showing the ram as the focal point of the attentions of several women, suggested that Young's drinkers were more likely to be the target for seduction (italics mine).

I'm sure the ASA's logic is impeccable, but it does appear that the implications are:

1) drinking Young's gives you a ram's head;
2) you will be popular but not attractive, a 21st century Elephant Man one supposes;
3) there are women out there who will seduce you for being the new John Merrick;
4) you therefore, as Young's drinker, have to be protected from these ravenous seductresses and, presumably, the inevitable News of the Screws kiss 'n' tell: 'Ewe! Ram man was just wham bam thank you mam! I didn't get the horn!'

[Bias alert: Young's Double Chocolate Stout of is a drink a pure genius. I've never pulled while drinking it. Then again, I've never grown a ram's head while drinking it either.]

Grist. Mill. Discuss 2: Vote vote vote for high fibre!

Simon Hoggart on Mark Oaten:

Mr Oaten is always billed as the "toughest" Liberal Democrat, which is like being the country's tallest dwarf. Or its most combative hamster.

More on the cheese cracker candidate's launch here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

It's 4 in the morning...

Well, clearly its not, but that's the best time to listen to depressing songs. The Observer Music Monthly is looking for some suggestions. Mine are:

Hüsker Dü - Hardly Getting Over It
Manics - Motorcycle Emptiness
R.E.M. - Sweetness Follows
The Boo Radleys - Upon 9th & Fairchild
American Music Club - Why Won't You Stay
Electronic - Getting Away With It.

Oooh, I'm welling up already. Bring out the Mazzy Star... And no Leonard Cohen yet. Hmmm.

One would hope someone has the wit to suggest Oasis' 'Sad Song'.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Blood sugar's not sexy, not majik

A truly terrifying story in the New York Times today, about the exponential, nay explosive growth in diabetes in the New York conurbation. Nearly one in eight of all New Yorkers - 800,000 adults - are now diabetic.

It's shocking not just because of the numbers, not just because of the other illnesses the diease can trigger, not just because it now means that it it is a bigger killer than AIDS in the city - but the the chilling thought that, seeing as the UK has broadly followed US dietary patterns in the last 50 years, a proportionally similar (if not as immediately large) incidence of the disease is likely here as well. Indeed, word has it that the infection rates in the Asian community in NW London are hitting similarly high levels, dietary and genetic reasons being prime causes.

(You'll most likely need to subscribe to the Old Grey Lady to see the full horror.)

Some principles

(or an attempt to explain why I’m doing this; that is, in the sense of keeping a blog, rather than the sense of writing this particular post here and now, lest you were afeared that I was about to get existential on yo’ reading asses.)

Pt 1: t, or why I do this stuff
Recently, I was on my way to British Library, and had just passed the St Pancras building site. I in turn was passed by a man had a ‘t’ on his tracksuit bottoms. The letter, on the top of the right thigh, grey-white on grey, was an old-skool ‘t’, like the t in the Telegraph, Daily, Old English being the closest approximation.

And seeing it prompted an utterly unexpected memory: of how I used to mess around with rub-on transfers of letters, kiddie-play typography. I think some ended up on a pencil case, others on a school project or newsletter or somesuch.

It was heartening to be reminded suddenly that I am not just messing about with ‘design’ on a whim, or a chance lucky streak at university, but instead playing out something that has slightly longer-standing (if up until then, previously forgotten) roots.

Pt 2: the challenge
Words come easy. Good words are harder. Placing them in the right order is harder still. It’s only others’ judgement that prevents you from saying that it is an impossibility.

Pt 3: a further note on who I think I am
“[William Small] was one of those people of whom everybody becomes increasingly fond, with a charm that is hard to pin down. Slight and delicate, he was completely unthreatening and absolutely open to ideas, able to pick them up and play with them, bringing to bear his own crisp intellect. He carried no heavy philosophical baggage or commercial ambition and was blissfully non-judgemental. To his ‘extensive, various and accurate knowledge’, wrote James Keir, he added ‘engaging manners, a most exact conduct, a liberality of sentiment, and an enlightened humanity. In short, he was a perfect addition to any network – unassuming in himself yet accelerating the flow of information between others. Even more valuable, he proved an instinctive diplomat who could ease potential conflicts while somehow managing not to betray confidences.”
Jenny Uglow, The Lunar Men, p 84

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Applause 2

Late I know, but this Charlie Brooker column from last month is fire-breathing brilliance. I've not seen such corruscating imagery brought forth in a long time.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Grist. Mill. Discuss 1: Handshake drams

Parse Charles Kennedy' statement from yesterday carefully, and there is one glaring omission: the word alcoholic. Which in turn leads to some other questions:

1. Why not use the word? Is it political fear that the word if used would come back to haunt him?Is it that a 'problem' is solvable where as an 'ism' isn't? And what are the gradations between the two? Is a drink every night before bed a nightcap, a problem or an addiction?

2. What is it about the way that British politics is organised that drives participants in it to drink possibly more heavily than other professions? (After all, most columnists love dropping nods and winks that certain MPs etc are overly fond of 'late night chats'.) And if that's the case, shouldn't we look at a) the supply of participants, and why potential addicts might be attracted to the job; b) the structure of the profession and factors which might cause increased stress, therefore being a contributory factor to drinking too much? Oh, and why does the Palace of Westminster have so many (subsidised) bars? Or maybe there's an argument that all this booze just brings elected representatives closer to recreational habits of their populace.

3. Is a drinking problem actually that much of a bar to higher office? Consider Churchill hic hic fight them on the beaches more brandy hic. (And there's a related discussion as to whether politcians on the left are allowed less of a leeway in their proclivities than those of the right.) And isn't there a case that if someone is to push the button, don't they need a degree of drunken imagination to contemplate such an action? What I'm trying to say is that someone stone-cold sober would far more likely to do so without second thoughts; a drunk might think that they're making a mistake and wait until the morning (or maybe just decide to leave it, that the rogue nation just isn't worth it and actually ish my besht mate).

4. Why does no senior LibDem have the guts to come out and run against him? Come on, wield a dagger or two. You're in politics after all. Stop being so nice. I mean, it's not as if you even have to stab him in the back. A bottle over his head should do it.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

A taxonomy; or crypticism explained

Expect irregular discourse (although the immediate mistype I made, discurse, makes more sense) on some, many, all or none of the following:

Applause: celebrating the words &c of others

Capsule: (s), short, or possibly longer, gobbets on music &c

Commercial: brands and any other money-making craziness, plus plugs for and by anyone/thing else who would like me to shill for them

Correspondence: suitably interesting, bowlderized and reasonably long emails between others, significant or not

Drafts: of other non-being beta works in, um, beta

Fiction: obviously

Grist. Mill. Discuss: observations on libertarianism, and why the people won't stop nannying you, me and your favourite asthmatic teen actress. May in time evolve into a manifesto for a UK-based libertarian (or social market) party. Will clearly need help with this

Juvenilia: various items, pre 2004

List: (s), of the more esoteric type. And yes, this is clearly inspired by those books. But hopefully these will be a bit more esoteric

Nanofictions: three sentences and the truth. Should generally be short enough to be delivered by SMS, should anyone want to take me up on the offer

The sub editor's fear of the semi-colon: an ex layout sub reads print publications too closely, and smugly spots errors

Tour: details and fragments picked up when I'm not here.

Blends/collisions of genres possible. Items not falling comfortably into any category, or have been worked on and still won't fit dammit, will be unheaded. Don't treat them like the orphans they clearly are - they have feelings too, you know.

Applause 1: Who's that boy (slight return)?,6000,1677659,00.html

A fabulous piece by Laura Barton, chasing down JT LeRoy, one of the US uberhip literary savants. The dislocation she feels while trying to pin down whether she's being tricked is perfectly captured.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Who's that boy?,11710,1676924,00.html

A lot (possibly too much) of yesterday was spent trying to guess the identity of the musician in question. Entries ranged from Tim Burgess of The Charlatans to Rick Astley.

Can you help? Answers on a postcard &c.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Throat clearing

Well, I hadn't planned to start quite like this. But at least it's now done. Explanations of crypticism as we go later on this week.