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

Thursday, October 30, 2008

An Eiffel Tower. Made of Lego

So before I went away, there was one thing I absolutely had to do.

Build an Eiffel Tower out of Lego.

Sounds easy, doesn't it?

It wasn't.

For a start, there were 87 different types of brick, and a total of 3,428 to be put together.

Eiffel build 1

There were a total of 184 instructions to be followed. Helpfully these were divided into 3 A4 instruction booklets.

There was so much because the model was 1:300 scale; 108cm high, and 50 cm wide at the base.

Oh, and Treason and Treachery fancied being assistant project managers. Which meant that I couldn't sort the 87 different types immediately. Instead, I had to count as I went along. And only use the kitchen table rather than the living room floor.

Eiffel build 2

I started at 10am, and progress at first was electric.

Eiffel build 3

From base to patio plate was completed in no time.

Eiffel build 4

But then things started to get tricky, as supporting columns needed to be built. Which meant some intricate building. And by this stage, brick finding was already getting complicated.

Eiffel build 5

So when stage 1 was completed, it was with a real sense of achievement. And a break for lunch. But only 30 minutes.

Eiffel build 9

Stage 2 started far too easily.

Eiffel build 10

The difficulty soon re-asserted itself, however.

Eiffel build 11

And by this stage I had started to get despondent. It was nearly 10 hours in, and even with a break for dinner, it was looking as if there was no way it could be finished in one day.

Eiffel build 12

Admittedly, that hadn't been an ambition. But with my feline project help, it wasn't really realistic to leave pieces out. So, what else could be done, but to start stage 3.

Eiffel build 13

By now, extreme building fatigue had set in. My fingertips were hard and red from the constant searching and assembling. My eyes were tired from the constant staring at the pieces, to check that they were correct. And, as the cliche has it, the finish never seems so far away as when you're closest to it.

Eiffel build 16

But dammit, I would not be beaten. Even at 2am. And I was not.

Voila! (The picture's wonky because, frankly, I was by that time.)

Eiffel build 18

Ms Beta is at the moment tolerating the model in the living room, and we have high hopes of capturing Treason and Treachery in a Godzilla moment and using that on our Christmas cards.

Did I learn anything from such a mammoth undertaking? Frankly no. But by god, it was worth it.


Commercial: This is an ad

For Quantum of Solace. The 007 Villain Collection from Swatch is the most creative product tie in I've seen yet.

(Cross-posted at This is an ad.)


For your eyes

1. The Simpson's spoof Mad Men for the Halloween special:

2. Obama's infomercial:


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Notes on tour: At an angle to the universe

So, I've been trying to find my soundbite about our Japan trip. It's tricky.

I've been falling back on 'crazy. In a good way. But still, crazy.'


For one, arriving in Tokyo is landing in a world that you know, and know is familiar, and yet you're looking at it through a coloured plastic lens, so what should be safe and comfortable becomes odd, and possibly even threatening. And still yet gaudily, brutally attractive.


And you're reminded that the night sky there was the inspiration for Blade Runner, and it still is the best guide to how our future will look, in the all-conquering megaopolises of the future.


And then you start to wonder at how such hard-edged visions can possibly coexist with the relentless displays of 'cuteness'. It is everywhere, commonplace and as unremarkable as oxygen. And no one questions what it says about a society, when it appears that it is the dominant mode of urban communication.


It must have something to do with the idea of displacing trauma, that some things hurt so much that they can't be explicitly answered or dealt with, and instead are nodded at elliptically through neon and pink and big eyes and chirpy voices and big, vacant smiles, smiles born of fear.


So you try and find the hard and fast, the verifiable and the factual, as a means to anchor you. Like the technology, and the way it is not used as 'technology', but a visible symbol of progress, and the fact that the Japan is just like us.


But then you run into the issue of women and sexism and patriarchy and how - still - the silent, demure is the ideal, and you realise you have to start again.


There's another note that runs through all discussions of trips to Japan. Did you find the 'real' Japan? The one that talks of geishas and shoguns and Shinto and cherry blossoms and emperors and a culture at once unknowable and yet very much like ours?


But soon it becomes clear, that even more than the urban disjoint, these waterfalls and hideaways and mountains and temples are no more likely to give up their secrets than the concrete sea that you see from the windows of your speeding train.


So you fall back on the earthy, the thing we all share. Food. Except we don't. And that's the biggest cultural test of all. It's the thing that causes most people to break. The preciseness, the visual beauty, the sheer other-wordliness of the flavours you encounter set up mental expectations that your tongue can't deliver, can't process, can't deal with.


And you deal with the raw fish for breakfast as a sort of low-grade Ahab, facing it down, wrestling with it in your dreams, determined that it won't beat you. And it does, it always does.


Which means that, all that's left, is to think about the fact that, however long you're there, however much you see, however much you look, you'll never even begin to get a handle on it, the etiquette, the land, the people.


That you think you recognise yourself here. But actually, when you refract the familiar again and again and again and again, you're left with what you know, but seen at an angle, that is part of your universe, but so very much not.


Monday, October 27, 2008

26 recommendations for October

can be found here.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Boys' Books

Boys' Books
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333
Or, holiday reading. Beta and Ms Beta leave for Tokyo tomorrow, for 10 days. So posting here will be more sporadic than normal. But with hopefully a few haikus inbetween.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Questions, questions

1. What on earth were local councils doing with sums of up to £40m, £50m sitting round in Icelandic banks, rather than being used to pay down debt, lower the cost of providing services, or - here's an idea - being invested in more services? Why didn't TfL use the money to hold down fares, for example? No one has neither asked nor answered that question.

2. Why is no one talking about the fact that there is still a huge amount of bad debt in the system that doesn't look like it's going to shift soon? Giving the banks more capital is fine, but it doesn't alter the fundamental point that if you don't know the value of the assets on one side of the balance sheet, you can't accurately say how much money you need on the other side of the balance sheet. Hence, methinks, why stock exchanges aren't even exhibiting a dead cat bounce.

3. Was the dinner that Gideon and Mandy had in Corfu the real life equivalent of the Pacino/ De Niro coffee scene in 'Heat'. And does anyone doubt that Gideon was had? He was flattered that the arch- flatterer wanted to pick his brains. And, BTW, he has a valet to serve champagne dinner/networking parties. Premier Cru crunch, anyone?


Sunday, October 05, 2008

More words

A review which I'd forgotten I'd written, for the Penguin Blog A Holiday Read site, has gone live.