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, April 27, 2010

Commercial: Don't cut public spending!

Not least because it means that the sibling with all the talent in my family, Uberpup, won't get the chance to do ace murals like this for Braintree Community Hospital. More at her site.


Big election potatoes

To draw your attention to the work being done by Nico Macdonald and Alan Patrick of Broadsight amongst others in suggesting that, considering the - how shall we say - somewhat *big* nature of the challenges, getting better at innovating our way out of the holes we are in is important.

Hence the Big Potatoes manifesto, which features such stirring calls as:

01 Think Big - The full entry of China and India into the world economy doesn’t just mean billions more consumers aspiring to Western lifestyles. It also means that the world can benefit from billions of innovating brains. It’s a moment to broaden horizons, expect much more, and expand every kind of ambition.

Compared with the pretty thin stuff on offer in most of the parties' election manifestos, this is vaultingly ambitious, and much to be commended.

The group have an event at the RSA tonight where these subjects - and no doubt much more - are under discussion. If you're at all interested in the future, you should be there.


Monday, April 26, 2010

It's posh, mate

One thing struck me after seeing Laura Wade's Posh at the Royal Court on Saturday (and you must see it, not least for the genius moment when our upper class break out into an a capella version Wiley's 'Wearing My Rolex'). For all the talk within the play about the blue bloods reclaiming what's theirs, in terms of power and status, they are trapped in a cultural milieu not of their making, and one that they'd be highly unlikely to break out of.

The evidence for this? The way all the members of the club are 'mate' to each other. Sometimes it felt like you could not move for exchanges that are 'mate this' and 'mate that' and 'mate the other'. My point is that this is not the language that of male bonding that the ruling classes used to speak; nor is it an ironic tribute to those other 19-21 year olds in the wider world, also getting up to no good. It is the way young men *everywhere* speak, and to that extent, it shows the ultimate futility of attempting to turn the clock back. Even in their own exchanges, they are using the language of their inferiors, and so therefore have lost the battle of influence.

Isn't it, mate?


Thursday, April 22, 2010


Originally uploaded by SgtRock333
Spotted at Old Street station last night. Probably what you call an integrated election campaign these days...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Wham Bam Thank You Mademoiselle

I am currently trying to persuade a client to accept an outrageous Bowie pun in some copy; I found this as evidence yesterday. Notable for the minute and a half set up at the front. French pop music TV just has that wee bit more elan, nes ces pas?


Monday, April 19, 2010


came to a close this weekend. To say it has been a bit of a marathon is to underestimate it, perhaps.

Still, as a cohesive body of work, celebrating important work done, it's probably the most important thing I've even been involved with.

If you haven't already, play with the random function on the site. It is, in its own way, mesmeric.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Commercial: This is what hypercapitalism looks like


It's called 'Kapitaal', and it's by Studio Smack.

(Hat tip: kylie of kylieandbrochan)


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Free The Blog: The Ex-Empire strikes back

So, to the Purcell Room, for a robust conversation between Margaret Busby, James Kelman and Olive Senior (chaired by Maya Jaggi) about the battle - and I think it's fair to say that all thought that was (and is) a battle - to open up English to other identities.

What was striking was how much this remains strongly contested political ground. As Kelman forcefully reminded us, in many places official English has been imposed as a punishment, so writing in your own 'voice', taking and shaping English into a pattern that is reflective of your natural syntax and rhythm is not only a way of being authentic - it is rebellion too, a way of overcoming marginalsiation too.

Don't doubt that this is a hard road to take: Senior was very clear on the fact that she was treated earlier in her career as being unable to write in English because she wrote in an authentic Jamaican voice ("'We like it, but why don't you write it in English?'"), reminding us of the fact that not being from the centre still means that you are both exoticised and treated as unrepresentative of mainstream culture. And that view can also mean that you struggle to be taken seriously as an artist, and have to fight to escape the 'naturalistic' tag, the idea that you are nothing more than a mere 'transcriber'.

Busby also reflected on the fact that a lot these hurdles are, and remain, structural - it's unsurprising that a mainly white, middle class publishing industry buys and attempts to sell books that reflects this perspectives, and for this reason alone, championing diversity in the industry makes sense - it opens up another strand of possibilities.

(One final thought: When Kelman was reading, you could shut your eyes and imagine for a moment that rap had been invented in Govan rather than the Bronx. A pleasing, if incongruous, thought.)

(Cross-posted from Free The Blog)


'Small thoughts lead to dull words'

At the National Theatre last night, David Hare was in suitably ruminative, combative form - he did wonder why no British theatre fancied reviving The Absence of War a few weeks before an election.

So instead, it's left to The Guardian to provide him a home during the campaign. And what a wise decision that is proving to be. Today's post is typically crisp and insightful, viz:

In this election, the words are dull because the thoughts are small.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Still life 010

Still life 010
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333
Balls of wool. I am assured something is happening with these.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I'm valuable in Scrabble

R words
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333
Sort of. After a quick consultation with the Words book, 2005 edn, turns out you could play me, even before the recent rule change.


Friday, April 09, 2010

RIP: Talcy Malcy I seem to remember the NME christening him when I started reading it. I retain(ed) an academic interest in him, not least as my masters' dissertation was about the censorship of 'God Save The Queen' by the BBC. What became clear through my research was that, above all, he was the situationist figure par excellence - Debord couldn't have dreamed up a better living, walking advert for his theory. And while Savage goes too far in theorising what McLaren was up to, he reminded us that there was far more than just the traditional Tin Pan Alley huckersterism driving him.

As was indeed evidenced by what he got up to post Pistols. The claim that he was the first white rapper is not too far from the truth (see above), and he could also claim to be ahead of the game when it game to psychogeography, viz his film The Ghosts of Oxford Street.

When you look at him in all the news bulletins today, look for the twinkle in his eye. It was never far away.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Satirical indexing

Modish NYC literary journal n+1 have performed a most valuable service: constructing various indexes to the 9/11 Commission Report. It is at points a work of bold and vigorous satire, a hallucination, and a treatise on the construction of knowledge.

Bold claims, perhaps; but see for yourself, and get a sense of the fragmentary, perishable world that spies and intelligence operatives work in.


Wednesday, April 07, 2010

The silent majority (slight return)

As pointed out on Today this morning, Cam Cam's invocation of the 'great ignored' recalls another rhetorical trope of right-of-centre heavyweight politician: Richard Nixon's 'silent majority'.

Leave aside the electoral conundrums of whether it works or not; it's interesting for three other reasons:

1) Nixon saying 'silent majority' worked because, palpably, he was one of them - rarely has a US politician been such an outsider (see Garry Wills' magisterial Nixon Agonistes for full confirmation of this.) Cam Cam is many things, but outsider he most definitely isn't, and for him to suggest he can speak for the ignored might be stretching credulity a bit.

2) More pertinently, to what extent do the Tories want to be seen to be taking rhetorical cues from, and let us be generous here, not the sunniest politician ever. Not for nothing was he associated with the 'paranoid style' in US politics, which would seem to be an odd place for the optimistic, happy, courageous Conservative party to be in. Which suggests that:

3) The re-branding of the party of is merely that, a re-branding, rather than a fundamental change. I mean, it's not too much of a leap to go from 'great ignored' to 'Are you thinking what we're thinking?' After all, the implication is that the Tories are thinking - and saying - exactly what's on the minds of the ignored; precisely those topics that they, as outsiders, never have a hope of getting on to the political/media agenda. (And of course Cam Cam was the author of the 2005 manifesto.)

It is, fundamentally, oddly negative language to be coming from what's meant to be a positive party.


Commercial: More brands, with feeling

From the New York Times, on the even greater role that product placement is playing in the financing of films and TV programmes. The eye-popping thing is the contortions writers are having to go through:

While Mr. Yospe often writes dialogue, in the meeting with Mr. Orci, he was suggesting types of advertisers to include. (Mr. Orci’s father, Roberto Orci, who is president of the advertising agency Acento, and his staff joined the meeting to discuss how brands might help market the movie.)

“You’ve written Gray has a Dodge Ram,” Mr. Yospe began, discussing a character. “Does it have to be a Dodge?’

“What’s wrong with Dodge? What have you got against Dodge?” said Mr. Orci, a soft-spoken 36-year-old.

The group began debating. In the script, Gray is described as “soldier-fit” but with “psychic damage.” Could someone like that drive, say, a Lincoln Navigator?

“That’s a mom’s car,” moaned Genesis Capunitan, an Acento executive.

I know, I know, it's nothing new. But still, it's a wee bit grubby, nes ces pas?


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Fiction: Special ordinary

It was about then that she knew there would be an end.

Not now. Not tonight. Tonight was not going to be a denouement. The climax of the opera buffa that they had become (despite their best efforts, their frowning, none-more-serious, weighty, efforts) had been postponed thanks to this intervention.

They would dribble on together for a few more weeks, or – more likely, as they both lacked the necessary courage to do it – a few more months, until one of them – she, inevitably – would crack and cry and say with an exaggeratedly sincere sigh, ‘Basta, basta’.

All this she could see, as clearly as she could see the outline of the power station in front of her. She would, if she had been more sober, made the obvious leap to the metaphor in front of her – the heat and light, the power, the electricity they once gave out together, made together; the gradual loss of fire until all that was left was guttering embers, heard but never seen.

And then the silence, and the decay.

Still standing they fought the elements that wanted to bring them down completely. Hollowed out but proud, they remained an icon to their friends, elemental yet sad, their dust and rubble evoking nostalgia laced with a deadly pity.

And, let’s be clear, the envious, the less scrupulous of their circle, had had designs on both their bodies for a long time now. She could see the embraces of one or two of them in particular changing in touch, becoming as sharp as the cranes on the pontoon. She didn’t fear this, but didn’t welcome it either. Her being desired roused a weariness in her that immediately dented any promises these haptic declarations made. And him being desired raised a jealously in her that she feared would make dismantling their edifice an even longer task.

All this she knew, in that moment, but couldn’t say. The night up till now had made sure of that. The two bottles, shared at first, but gradually left to her, had made sure of that. The guilty half bottle of vodka to follow had made sure of that. The dwindling levels of blood sugar had made sure of that. The last gasp of her youth had made sure of that.

Thank God the park was locked. If she was feeling more robust, the railings would have proved little hindrance, and she feared what she might have do to herself, with a bandstand and a lake available. She was sure that she’d have made it worse for him.

Then there she was, arriving as angels – or those who in our stories we make into angels, because the inevitability of the narrative demands it – are meant to do: from nowhere, appearing on the roundabout, her wings dropping, her blonde hair streaked with grey, her halo in her left hand, her nipples emitting a red light on a slow pulse.

In her right hand, a kindness.

His kindness had been an affront. It hadn’t been his idea, after all. He had agreed, almost happily, to this method of commemorating her aunt. It confirmed both what she loved about him, that his ability to surf her moods was unique, a sponge who could infinitely absorb rage, joy, disdain; and what she hated, that he would never save her from herself.

A moonwalk for fuck’s sake. At midnight?

And yet he’d said yes. Said yes to her pink hair and pink bra and pink face when what she really wanted him to say was, stop this, stop it now, let’s turn around, and do it another night, when you are happier, and I am stronger, and we will remember her properly, with the joy that she would have wanted, rather than this sullen trudge to raise money for the useless, moronic fight against the thing that killed her.

But all he’d done, instead, was facilitate, nod, smile – wanly, uselessly – offer to stop, offer to feed her, offer to water her, a barrage of kindnesses as deadly and destructive as a firestorm.

She’d returned fire. The spittle that remained on his top from two hours ago was success enough.

She would only ever appreciate his gift of making ordinary phrases seem special, and special ones ordinary, after the end. And when she remembered it, it made her remember him an iota more fondly than he deserved. She took the Kit Kat, and made one of those promises that are broken the moment they’re said out loud.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Commercial: Hire great writers

From the very, very, very good book Rework by the chaps at 37signals:

If you are trying to decide among a few people to fill a position, hire the best writer. It doesn't matter if that person is a marketer, salesperson, designer, programmer, or whatever; their writing skills will pay off.

That's because being a good writer is about more than writing. Clear writing is a sign of clear thinking. Great writers know how to communicate. They make things easy to understand. They can put themselves in someone else's shoes. They know what to omit. And those are qualities you want in any candidate.

Writing is making a comeback all over our society. Look at how much people e-mail and text-message now rather than talk on the phone. Look at how much communication happens via instant messaging and blogging. Writing is today's currency for good ideas.

There is much, much more in this vein, some of it do with writing, but most of it to do with very living and working. Go get.