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

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Grist. Mill. Liberalism: Protest agonistes

Seen on the Northern line this evening while going home. Two of these doctored TfL customer charter leaflets, one each on the seats either side of the emergency door.

On the reverse side has been written, by the same hand:

25 miles


What was really depressing was (and I'm making an assumption here) that this form of political protest - and we can assume it was that because there were two of them - was so...inanane. A splurge of temper, which is fine, and then some nonsense which makes only partial sense.

Is the protester asking for the fuel escalator to be brought back, abolished in the wake of the 2000 fuel protests. Does he believe that the 150p price of a litre (is it? I don't drive) is solely due to tax? And does he believe that the same amount of tax is charged on that tank of petrol as it is on a return air ticket to New York?

As a band once asked: is this it? Is this what 'debate' now means? Exit one observer, despairing.

Monday, February 26, 2007

26 recommendations for February

can be seen here.

(Busy busy busy, btw.)


Sunday, February 25, 2007

26 Sayings

26 Sayings
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333.
A bit slack in posting this, but here's a lovely hard copy version of the 26 Sayings, as first exhibited at the London Design Festival, October 2006.

Booklet designed by Lippa Pearce.

Further images from exhibition can be seen here.


Thursday, February 22, 2007

52.365.2007 (First day at work)

Over-stimulation aside, a good day.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Capsule: Rufus Wainwright and Judy Garland

World's greatest entertainer

Not, on first glance, the most unlikely resurrection since Ron Atkinson was seen at Kettering Town FC, but instead an act of love and homage. Rufus came (and comes again next Sunday, if you can get returns) to the London Palladium to recreate the concert that recreated at Carnegie Hall last year, Judy Garland's show-stopping epic of 1961 (one of the best-selling live recordings ever).

You could describe it as a case of 'ferocious archeology', or if you are feeling particularly mean, a facile event, as worthless as the Gus Van Sant remake of Psycho. But the night went beyond mere facsimile or reinterpretation.

There was much channeling of the spirit of cabaret, what with artificial crushes by the bar and plenty of digital flashes popping. One of the League of Gentlemen was present, in a just-the-right-side-of-lurid candy-striped suit, while there was a studied informality present in most of the audience. One or two cummerbunds could be spotted, but rightly, Rufus was the best dressed man in the house, although of his two Viktor + Rolf suits, the grey number for the second half was far better than the first act's diamante mustard confection (later claimed to be leopard print) which in some lights made him look like an over-condimented hot dog.

On paper, the night itself was one of a sort of lunacy. Rufus is not yet the great interpreter if the American Songbook a la a Stewart or Bennett. But he is a great interpreter of divadom, and so it proved as, beyond improbability, Judy did start to resonate to the rafters.

The orchestrations had a distinct verve and bite, and the propulsive New York sound was tangible. Rufus was unsure of himself to start with, his phrasing in 'Putting On The Ritz' collapsing. The fast show stoppers were his forte, and he was less able to provider the depth of emotion that the torch songs demanded. Only when he reached for Judy's key, in the the sublime 'Do It Again', did he, and the show, start to shimmer.

It took wing with 'San Francisco' at the end of the first act, where the intertextual notes he provided in-song were gratifying; it was sung with the lusty abandon of all the gay men who have ever played it and vowed to head west.

And then with act two, he stepped it up a gear. He was helped by sister Martha (do family Wainwright do anything on their own?), who came on as a Forties siren, and caressed 'Stormy Weather'. Lorna Luft, the physical link back to Garland, belted her allotted numbers in the traditional Broadway style. The 'Trolley Song' was untouchable, and then, deliciously and movingly, Rufus sat at the edge of the stage for 'Rainbow'; he had himself - and us - in tears.

'Chicago' brought the roof down, and the two standing ovations were inevitable.


Saturday, February 17, 2007

Poetry: Saturday Guardian

You shake the outside off your hair
the umbrella goes away.
The buttons on your raincoat lose slip their moorings;
steam seals your glasses.

Two pints of Irish Pride are rescued
and you sally forth through the Rugby Boys
to where Newsprint and an empty seat are waiting.
You recline, as the fire is stoked.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Capsule: Michel Gondry on complexication

Near-auteur Michel Gondry is doing the promotional rounds for his new film The Science of Sleep. He's an insightful interviewee on all manner of his subjects. This quote from today's Grauniad seemed apt for St Valentine's Day:

"There was this girl recently who said that she had watched my DVD six times, and I was thinking, 'Oh, she must really like me.' So I asked her out to a screening and she said, 'It's a date.' " He shakes his head. "But she didn't mean it as a date-date. She just meant it as a date in her diary. Or maybe she did mean it as a date, but then she changed her mind."

He pauses to ponder this conundrum; this thicket of missed connections and language barriers, gaudy dreams and cold realities. Eventually he is forced to let it lie. "I wish there was an easy answer," he sighs. "It is very complexicated".

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Commercial: Of brand ambassadors and universes

Some collected thoughts on the wibly world of web 2.0 branding, as evidenced over the last week or so:

1) You can thrive as a brand without necessarily having to rush to embrace web 2.0 type paraphanalia. This was brought home by spending a mesmeric half hour last Sunday night watching Liz Earle of the eponymous cosmetic firm on QVC (Yeah, I know, but I had time to kill before the Superbowl.)

At first I thought it was some kind of gag; having been introduced to Earle's products in the last few months (including one of the shaving goods that was featured on screen), I had placed the brand as very upscale, ethically friendly, and thus highly unlikely to appear on what I assumed to be a downmarket retail channel. A little watching and research disabused me of that. QVC's gentle, exhortative style was a perfect fit for the achiveable, green perfection that Earle sells, and it was heartwarming to discover that it was through QVC that Earle first launched. I hadn't expected such loyalty to be displayed.

It also helps tremendously that Liz herself is such a great ambassador for her brand: beautiful, calming, intelligent - clearly an aspirational figure for her target market.

So: the right channel, and the right person can be substitutes for web 2.0. (That said, I'm not sure as to why they still call their first shop, on the Isle of Wight 'Union', whereas the London store is 'Liz Earle'. Consistency here shouldn't be such a problem, surely?)

2) Yahoo! has launched a tool which will help brands consolidate their own web presence, while drawing on relevant user egenrated content. Yahoo is informally calling them 'brand universes', and TechCrunch provides a good overview of the aims and the way that they work.

First up is the Nintendo Wii, and it's busy if not particularly attractive. Interestingly, TC claim that Yahoo! is not working with brand owners at the moment, which will surely change, as a savvy brand manager will take the opportunity to tweak which of the Yahoo content brands, eg Flickr, Answers, delicious, they want to major on.

From a more personal perspective, Yahoo! also soft launched Pipes this week, a direct nod to the UNIX past, which will allow people to consolidate and aggregate various types of feeds in one place. It looks to be a simple drag and drop interface, and implies that the 'Daily Me' is getting ever closer.

3) Just in case you thought the Superbowl last weekend was an advertising opportunity locked out to the many start ups and small firms that can't afford astronomical ad rates, a series of web 2.0 start ups on You Tube would like to show you diffeerently. Players include Meebo and Plaxo.

New corporate media strategies ahoy!


Monday, February 12, 2007

The Manics are back

and in an email from, oh woe what a sign of the times The Carling What The Hell Are They Calling The Shepherd's Bush Empire Now? newsletter, Nicky promises in respect of the tour to support 'Send Away The Tigers': "Springsteenesque long sets, working class rage, make-up and dumb punk fun".



Saturday, February 10, 2007

Fiction: Phillie's

He lifted the brim of his fedora, a touch from his index finger sufficient, his sightline freed up enough so he could shoot a quick, admiring glance at the flame-red girl in the flame-red dress. Pity she was looking at her flame-red nails.

His eyes moved across to the clock. 2.30am. He slipped off his bar stool, nodded curtly to the guy behind the counter, and made his way out of Phillie’s.

2.31am. He looked up the road ahead of him. Skyscrapers were framed by moonlight; one, two, forever blocks ahead of him.

He pulled up his collar and started to walk.

The moon was getting closer as he moved north. It started to fill his vision as it sunk towards him. He paused to stop and rub his disbelieving eyes. In that moment, a woman stepped down from the crescent now level with the street.

She was wearing a diaphanous dress; sequins shimmering, straps falling off her shoulders. Her grey eyes sparkled, her hair was all glisten and glitter and glide.

She took his face in her hands. She held his gaze for a moment, then murmured to him, “This night is real,” before kissing him.

He blinked. She had gone. The moon was high again in the sky. It was 2.32am.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Capsule: Marjorie's World Unhinged

It is always somewhat surprising when on an evening out you stumble across the limits of narrative. Especially at the latest work by Maresa von Stockert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall last night.

Appointed as artist in residence for 2007 at the South Bank Centre, 'Marjorie's World Unhinged' is billed as an evening of 'dance theatre'. The trouble is that the dance is wildly better than a shonky storyline that sits uneasily between kitchen sink melodrama and whimsical fantasy.

The six 'characters' arbitrarily thrown together - a ballerina and her sister, her pianist-turned-factory-worker husband and their son, and two pupils of her sister's ballet school - sit uneasily in relation to each other. Are they fully family? Friends? Colleagues? Whoever they are, they're not given much by way of an arc of development: they work, bitch, age, die. That's it.

Where the game cast is really hampered is in some poor direction. The opening ballet school section is shockingly-badly staged: a pointless attempt at an overhead perspective merely emphasised its artificiality, and distracted from the movement, which did seem to be genuinely difficult, with the dancers resting on one arm.

And if members of the company are to act, if they are to fully inhabit these characters, they need to do so more vocally, rather than just in flat monotones.

The real giveaway that the showing was working far, far better than the telling was in the narration, which at points described what we had just seen on stage, destroying any more nuanced interpretation that the audience might have developed.

So the theatre's bad. But the dance was - when it was freed from its theatrical straightjacket - consistently intriguing. A sequence set in a factory made intelligent use of a sparse production line to suggest that fantasy can be found amongst the physical repetition and mental drift. A later solo piece about aging made use of a looming fish-eye camera, revealing decay in even the youngest of bodies, and that all flesh - male or female - cannot be told apart at the end. It is all the same as it dies.

But these are slim rewards from a night that promised much. Majorie's world was merely disjointed. Which really wasn't unhinged enough.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Capsule: Why folk is back

In last month's The Word, an interesting perspective on why folk is back a music genre amongst popkids and popparents alike. Colin Newman of Wire, for it is he, said:

"The interesting thing was post-punk, a way of looking at the world that irrevocably changed in '76 and '77. You had to do more than say you were new, you had to be new... I really don't subscribe to any concpet of a movement; it's rubbish. It just remains the easiest way for four spotty boys or girls to get in a room and make a very satisfying noise on a basic level... People of 19 and 20 may not have much money and if you want to make your impact you're going to choose whatever comes easiest. Today I suspect it might be folk music.

Paul Du Noyer, 'What did you do in the war, Daddy?', The Word, February 2007, p71

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Commercial: Chinese cats, waving

Spotted in Notting Hill yesterday; it's one of the more mesmeric incidences of window shopping one could have...

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Commercial: Architects and branding

Following a request, a quick, intuitive list linking high-profile 'celebrity' architectural practices to common perceptions of the work their practices produce. Now, there is no rigour in this top of the head study whatsover, but as a piece of thin-slicing brand assessment, it works quite well.

Architect: Brand essence

Foster: is all about triangles and glass

Calatrava: is all about inspiration from nature and especially fish and birds, with lots of swooping shapes

Gehry: is all about impossible and unexpected curves

Herzog and de Mueron: are about the unexpected (they don’t really have a signature style)

Liebskind: is all about shattered angles reformed

Grimshaw: is industrial chic (plus the domes of Eden Project)

Allsop: is all about primary coloured blobs

Hadid: is all about reconfiguring space in unexpected ways

Koolhaus: is all about theory made real.