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

Friday, November 28, 2008

Commercial: Two fun things

1. Spotted at the Odeon Marble Arch; derivative, yes, but gets the brand value across pretty well.

2. Accurist's attempt to create a new speaking clock, by filming people as hours, minutes and seconds. A lovely, sideways association of brand, people and time. I suspect this will really extend the brand's audience.


The idea is more than the content

Good advice, methinks.

BTW, Mark Leckey for the Turner prize this year.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

The 26 Annual Speech

This year given by Phil Collins, a former speechwriter to Tony Blair, is a brilliant guide to the hows and whys of making words work. It really is worth your time.

Annual 26 speech 2008 from Tom Clarkson on Vimeo.


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How much do you love your boss?

Originally uploaded by smagdali
Enough to come to work dressed as him on his birthday? That's what the good burghers of the world's favourite printing company did yesterday, arriving at Moo towers in the garb of their fearless, visionary and pioneering CEO Richard Moross. (I can say all that because I met him at a Moo focus group a few years ago, and he was indeed all of those things.)

Clearly, all you need for success is a black jacket, some jeans, trainers - oh and to be unfeasibly tall.

Let's hope 'International Dress Like Richard Moross Day' long continues!


26 newsletter for November

with recommendations here, and news of next year's Free The Word festival here.

Get involved in that; and remember - I still want your wishes for the SpinVox Wishing Well.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gladwell on tour

No doubt you were one of the *thousands* - and no, that isn't hyperbole - who was crammed into the Lyceum Theatre last night - twice - to see thinker, writer and Sideshow Bob lookalike of his generation Malcolm Gladwell expound on his latest book 'Outliers'.

An indication that he probably is the world's most popular non-fiction writer at the moment: the queue to pick up tickets stretched around three sides of the theatre, and the show started half an hour late. We surmised on the way home that the evening's second gig had started even later than billed.

On the face of it, there's slight evidence as to why Gladwell should be given this rock star approbation. For one there are other *popularisers* out there - Friedman, du Sautoy to name to radically different ones. For another, he certainly doesn't dominate a stage, instead preferring to self-deprecate ever so slightly before launching into the dissection at hand, which last night was on 'the ethnic theory of air crashes'.

But as he started to unwind his premise, delve into it, open it up with both theory and anecdote, you started to get a glimpse of what makes him good. For starters, he does the legwork that a reporter should, which in this age of Google is an impressive boast. It was clear that not only had he read the relevant literature on airline safety, he'd understood it too, and got people to explain to him the bits he didn't understand. Second he has a gift - and I think it is a gift - for making the complex not just simple, but witty and memorable too. We sometimes disdain aphorisms as if they somehow dumb down the phenomena they seek to explain. But he's good at making something dry and academic seem relevant to your life. And in doing so, he's also able to re-cast a problem to make it more explicable: 'Air crashes are social problems, not technical problems'. So you get a different perspective on things.

And ultimately I think it's his laser guided focus on trying to put the human, the person, the social back into the heart of the questions that he's answering, that reveals why he's so popular. In a time when it's easier to for people to explain (and accept explanations) of behaviours and actions that are technologically determinist, he stresses that while systems may be complex, they are understandable and subject to change and improvement as they are fundamentally human. And this is re-empowering, perhaps unexpectedly so.

So see him if you can, when you can, not only so that you become more fluent in terms such as 'mitigation' and 'power distances' and 'social turmoil spectrums', but also are reminded of the power of stories and narratives to answer questions about ourselves.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Commercial: The Monocle Shop

The Monocle Shop

So Saturday saw Ms Beta and me mooching in Marylebone for the first time in ages. There was an ulterior motive, and not just a desire to go star-spotting on the High Street (hello Rosie Boycott! And Lenny and Dawn!) or complete some early Christmas shopping.

Nope; instead I was frankly over-excited and eager to dash to the Monocle Shop, the pop-up retail concept from the magazine of the same name.

Over the course of the last 19 issues or so, the title has been a champion of amongst other things, good design and well-curated retail spaces that add to the pleasure of urban living. Happily, the shop lives up to the promise of the magazine.

It's tiny, only 9m sq in size, which at it's peak I guess can fit about 8 people at a squeeze. Despite this, plenty has been crammed in - shelves of back issues, Drakes scarves, Smedley jumpers, Archie Grand notebooks and the fabulous Porter bags.

You're greeted personally, no matter how busy the shop is - and Sophie was doing fab job of being friendly while serving and gift-wrapping the notebook I bought. And as it is an extension of the brand, there was also a brand bible to browse. I loved the fact that Monocle subscribers are now more likely to take a copy of the magazine to dinner parties. I need to start doing that.

Undoubtedly it'll be crazy busy in the run up to Christmas, so you might have to wait a wee while before being served. But fingers crossed the shop will be a success, and I hope it becomes a permanent feature of London shopping.

The only thing that let it down for me was that I couldn't get one of the new tote bags that are part of the gift subscription promotion. Seriously, if anyone wants a sub, I could be easily persuaded...


Friday, November 21, 2008

What blog am I?

Well, according to Typealyzer:

ISTJ - The Duty Fulfillers

The responsible and hardworking type. They are especially attuned to the details of life and are careful about getting the facts right. Conservative by nature they are often reluctant to take any risks whatsoever.

The Duty Fulfillers are happy to be let alone and to be able to work int heir own pace. They know what they have to do and how to do it.

Which sort of sounds right, if a bit dull.

More promising is the diagram that shows you the parts of the brain that were used when the blog was being written (see above).

Being Beta: now officially more practical thinking that he thought he was.

(Hat tips: Andrew Sullivan, via Comment Central)


On dawdlr

That'd be me
. Cool. As is everything else/one who's there.


Commerical: The prettiest coffee in the world

The prettiest coffee in the world

So finally made it to Lantana the other day, the cool cafe round the corner from us at work. It is on the crest of an upswing, not just because various AIS types can be found in there nearly all hours, but also because it was named in Time Out's best cheap eats thing.

And my god, why did I wait? The mocha was incredible. It looked incredible too. I'll need to try and go back fro a proper brekker as a pre-Christmas treat.

And it's web 2.0 sorta place, as Shelagh who runs it, also keeps a blog about it. Scrambling Eggs is well worth your time if you're into your food.


Commercial: This is an ad

Too much Lynx will kill you

Will 'lavish' now become a forbidden word in Lynx adverts?

(Cross-posted at This is an ad.)


Can't be sure

Why I decided to dig out The Sunday's 'Reading, Writing and Arithmetic' this week. I'm glad that I did. Even if it did induce a certain type of melancholia that I hadn't experienced since I stopped listening to fey jangle pop. (You never get much of that on Radio 4.) Anyway, for those who remember Harriet's particular keenings, enjoy:


Thursday, November 13, 2008

26 / SpinVox Wishing Well

Hello 26 people! Please post your wishes below. Thanking you.


Linkorama for 13.11.08

1. The scariest paragraph I've read for sometime:

This is where governments might need to be even more unorthodox. The tax cuts do not have to be financed by selling bonds. They can be financed by asking the Bank of England to offer an overdraft to the government, which is a polite way of saying by printing money. If you think about this as a process in which the central bank prints bank notes (essentially at zero cost) and gives them to the government to hand out in tax reductions, you would not be wrong in any meaningful way. This is a crazy and dangerous procedure when inflation is threatened - but it is the most powerful way of fighting deflation that economists have invented. Perhaps it will become necessary.

South American dictatorships ahoy!

2. The cats are definitely trying to kill me. (Hat tip: Copybot)

3. Rory Sutherland says service will have to get faster.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Free the (new) Word

To Penguin last night, where 26 hosted International PEN's Caroline McCormick and poet Yang Lian, for an informal reading and an early discussion about next year's Free The Word festival.

Before reading one of his poems, Lian mentioned that he'd coined a new word: "'darknesses', because why should there only be one darkness?" That's brilliant, non?

And if you want to get involved in next year's festival, slated for 16-19 April, do drop me a line.


Neologisms (5)

Pop hominem (n, adj): making an unfounded attack on a person's taste in music, generally popular rather than classical or jazz. Eg, 'Of course liking Prince makes you a bit gay.'


Linkorama for 11.11.08

1. A modern form of remembrance.

2. Cameron Crowe eviscerated. I now feel guilty, from a sexual politics point of view, for having liked Elizabethtown. Clearly, I need to hold out for more screwball.

3. 10 very good reasons why you should grow a beard. I like reasons 2 and 4.


Thursday, November 06, 2008

Mr Paxman, meet Mr Rascal

And yes, a black man, a purple man and a martian man could all be Prime Minister one day...


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Right now, this is probably the best job in the world

Being head speechwriter to the President-elect. And he's only 26. Blimey. Yes, I am jealous.

Some tips on how to write speeches well from one of Tony Blair's former speechwriters can be found here.


Lessons from a really super Tuesday

Wow. Was anyone expecting something that big? Some early sketches of thoughts:

1) Advertising works. No really, it does. It simply has to be part of the explanation as to why someone who lost their first statewide election in 2000 has a mere eight years later become President. Allied to a simply phenomenal on the ground effort, and demographic changes, selling a brand like Obama to states that wouldn't have considered it before - Colorado, New Mexico - shows that clever, well-targeted spend can have a decisive impact.

2)Rhetoric works. The inspiration it provides, the goosebumps that register and make you believe that anything is possible. It helps that one of the best public speakers ever has been campaigning, but even had he lost Obama's speech on race would have gone down in history. More importantly, powerful and passionate words helped to convince people that a chance was worth taking - indeed, had to be taken. Rarely can a prosaic trope like 'experience' have been so defeated by cadences and spoken poetry. Hopefully, that's now the end of the sludge that passes for most political discourse, not withstanding Nico's concerns about empty content. I can't wait for Garry Wills' book on Obama's rhetoric.

3) Social networking came of age last night, and in the process went mainstream. Like many people, the experience for me was mediated by the BBC, and then online sources (Guardian, New York Times) and then the real time, personal experiences of people on Facebook, and the various Twitter tools - Election, Twitter Vote Report - which performed remarkably well considering the pressure they were under. Swimming in data we might have been, but it provided a visceral immediacy generally absent from the experience of politics. Amelia has some far more cogent insights into what this means.

My favourite tool of the night was the NYT's State of mind monitor - god, people were nervous.

4) Elections work. I know. Democracy is still the least bad option we have. All elections should be national holidays. Once people have voted, they can then participate in other civic activities. It'll help to bring to people together.

And if you haven't already, the victory speech is here:

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Listorama: Facebook status updates vol 10

BetaRish (is)...

god-particle hunting

nope, nothing doing. Just can’t make this line funny

made for the day, after an excellent breakfast

watching the air escape from the bulge bracket

considering the hyperbolic

has thoughts. He’s just not sure to do with them all

ready. The other contenders? He’s not sure about them

worth following, even in this state

Open Housing today

about to leave for day two of Open House

wonders where the hell the weekend went

scarmble! Scramble! Scramble! (not eggs)

also aware he can’t type properly today

needs to start on that to do list

expect a quiet, relentless day

says: ok, ‘expecting’, pedantry fans

having to accept that it just won’t all get done. At all. Ever

has been dreaming of fry ups. No really

awaiting inspiration


waiting for the cat sitter

with the seldom seen kid

delighted his ‘tiredness’ isn’t as bad as Holly’s

ill, which is rubbish

still ill, and is looking at a whole day in bed

attempting to work from the sick bed

not funny

going to Poetry School later


going to try and not get demob happy. Until lunchtime

loving the new Bernie Gunther novel

has been writing poems about apples

going to start that Lego. Oh yes he is

has built the Eiffel Tower

has landed in Tokyo. Hai late summer

will be attempting to book train tickets to Kyoto later today

would like to sleep properly tonight, all the more to enjoy Hakone tomorrow

back from Hakone, with two Tokyo days left

will be braving the rain later, to go to the national museum

has less than 12 hours left in Tokyo

all fished out. Time for home

marching for the Saints. Just for today, mind

back back back, as the cliché has it

says a change will do you good

a radiation vibe he’s grooving on

, in case you needed reminding, likes public service broadcasting

treat, not trick

writing today