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, September 30, 2010

Notes on an accident

So this morning we woke to an incident happening right outside our front door.

An accident.

A pretty significant one. In that all three emergency services had been called out. And that the roof of one of the cars had been cut off.

Some things I observed, and thought, which I thought might be worth recording. Or at least, trying to remember:

I am amazed that the sound of the collision happening did not wake either of us up. I thought that I had had a psychic wobble in my dream, and that did involve some sort of violent rupture; or maybe this is now just my desire to not to have missed the accident playing itself back.

Sand, the piles and and piles of sand left scattered, by the traffic islands, by debris. And, casual as you like, leaning almost forgotten against one of the fire trucks, two brooms.

Being able to walk up one of the cycle superhighways to the station, on the opposite side of the road, and how transgressive that felt, especially when you were able to do so because of a risk not coming off that you passed 100 yards ago.


Poetry: From the slightly less ordinary

My found poem 'The morning question' has been published on the rather excellent site Verbatim. Go read etc.


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Commercial: Poetry from Art

So. I read on Saturday night. At Tate Modern. On the 7th floor. Great views. Even better poetry. How I managed to sneak into such exalted company I'm not sure.

We sold 80 copies of the associated pamphlet. It's still on sale, at the Tate Modern bookshop. The cover looks like above.

And my poem was inspired by this work.


Tate Modern has just published an anthology of twenty-four poems created during Pascale Petit’s wonderful Poetry from Art courses in the Tate galleries. The pamphlet includes poems after Mona Hatoum, Francis Alÿs, Joseph Beuys and Mike Nelson. The book is on sale at Tate Modern.

The contributors are: Karen McCarthy Woolf, Naomi Woddis, Malika Booker, Rowyda Amin, Matthew Paul, Anne Welsh, Sarah Salway, Rebecca Farmer, Zillah Bowes, Cath Drake, Rishi Dastidar, Beth Somerford, Roberta James, Cath Kane, Kaye Lee, Lynn Foote, Seraphima Kennedy, Ali Wood, Julie Steward, Elizabeth Horsley, MJ Whistler, Andrea Robinson, Angela Dock, Beatriz Echeverri.

Go get, etc etc.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Commercial: Poetry from Art

A reminder that I'm reading as part of the launch of the Poetry from Art pamphlet at Tate Modern this Saturday night. To whet your appetite even further, Pascale Petit, the pamphlet's editor, has posted some extracts on her blog.

Do check them out; and hope to see you on Saturday night.


Commercial: Uberpup in San Francisco

Early doors reminder; if you happen to be in San Francisco next month, do pop by to see my sister's exhibition. It will be as lysergic as the flyer suggests.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Commercial: onefinestay's first birthday

Well, the start up that I had a wee hand in celebrated its first birthday last week. And my! look how it's grown. Great cake too.


Fiction: Correspondence cards

So then it was confirmed. It was shut down, and he was shut out, at least for a while, what could be a long while. The guy who had been summoned in hope that he might be able to do something - anything - about it, and keep him going, well, he'd tried what had seemed to his untrained eyes like a hell of a lot, if a lot could be measured by the amount of noise that he was making back there, clatters and grunts and huffing and scratches, and a few general all-purpose murmurs of things like 'right' and 'Ahhh' and 'I see' and 'Gotcha!' which seemed to come out of the manual of 'How to reassure punters that things will be fixed quite soon, even though that's probably not the case, and there's a pretty hefty call out charge to justify'.

There might even have been a sucking in of cheeks, he thought.

But then, a hand appeared, then another, then a head popped up, carrying a heavy visage and a sad-eyed countenance. He thought it fortunate that, at least, professionals of his type did not revel - or at least want to be seen to be revelling - in a misfortune that he knew, of course he knew, to be the very epitome of what was at first laughing, but then with more menace, dismissed as a 'first world problem'.

Why shouldn't it be taken seriously, he thought morosely. Why shouldn't his inability to communicate in the manner that pleased him most not be thought of as something, if not particularly worthy of attention in the grand scheme of things, be something more than a cause for snickering and merriment and a general leg pulling?

After all, he prided himself on his ability to stay in touch with as wide a circle of people as humanely possible, and indeed, his skills in the field had both baffled and dazzled people in equal measure. It was said of him that he collected people, and he supposed in a sense that was true. But under that statement was the implication that he also discarded people, and this he had never quite been able to bring himself to do. For that implied that people had an obvious and overt utility to him, and he struggled to see that in the people he knew, but also within him. If he thought that anyone would think of him, or see him as some sort of user of people, a man simply writing down names in a notebook who could be tapped or goaded into providing and then being the recipient of favours, that would cause his self image to splinter a tiny crack further.

Plus he resented this idea of 'collecting' people. It implied that in some way he was not a friend, or someone capable of having relationships, but instead was an archivist, and conjured up the image of him in some way taking something an item from a particular person, then pressing it flat and then pasting it into a scrap book, before being filed away on top of a wardrobe, to be taken down and have the dust blown off it when, as was inevitable for a man like him in later years, he would have been left perilously alone, and all that was left to sustain him were these slight physical remnants of friendships that he once had.

The idea that people had this idea pained him. But what was he to do about it? He could but carry on, being a social gadfly in his own way: that is to say, quietly, unobtrusively, with a quiet, lingering word in the ear at parties, a recursive and responsive listening at dinner, a gentle open palm on the shoulder at partings at Tube stations; and doing so every night of every week for most months of the year, until even his constitution had to declare that it needed a break from the caffeine and gin and saturated fats that powered most of the interactions he had.

Naturally, he had taken advantage of every leap forward offered to him when it came to managing the complexity of the webs of people that he found himself enmeshed in. Of course he was not overly pleased with the fact that, when he sent out his correspondence cards, people's reaction to them were one of a surprise that a medium so quaint was still being used, rather than an appreciation of it. But still, he had brought himself up to speed with every network and technology that he needed to; some he found useful, others less so. And some even began to hint at the fact that the loneliness need not be permanent.

But he also knew that if that was to change, he would have to change to. And right now, he had an enforced exile from his communicative world to worry about first.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Open House London 2010

It's that time again, which someone once characterised as:

almost the perfect form of recreation for the English, combining as it does walking, queuing, snooping and property

(Yes, I am quoting myself. What of it?)

This year's itinerary, assuming no Pope-related hold-ups is roughly as follows:


12.00 Peter Jones, for a behind the scenes tour, and no doubt some superfast shopping
1.00 55 Broadway, the home of London Underground

and then to Shoreditch for the afternoon, for, inter alia:

Raven Row
Rivington Place
Village Underground


10.00 Lambeth Town Hall (I know, long-time residents of the borough, and we haven't been yet)

and then from about 1pm or so, we'll be volunteering at 36 Wansey Street in Elephant, a model eco home as featured on the BBC's 'It's Not Easy Being Green'. Feel free to quiz me on air source heat pumps and the like.

Will hopefully see some of you out and about at some point across the weekend; DM me on twitter if you happen to be close by.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Commercial: 26 Treasures Friday Late at the V&A

Yes, I've blogged about this before already, but repetition is good for the soul. And if you didn't already have enough on during London Design Festival, well here's another thing to add to your diary.

26 Treasures is sneaking into the V&A for this month's Friday Late. You'll be able to see a film of all the writers reading their 62 words, plus you can be taken round the exhibition by some of the writers, including blog friends John Fountain and Sarah McCartney.

I'll be there. You should be too. That is all.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Listorama: Facebook status updates vol 17

BetaRish (is):

lacks transmission

is on drugs the size of dinner plates

There’s a koan for that

is experiencing a nuanced and complex hangover

is on the losing side in ‘The War of Sleepless Intrigues’

is about to be the victim of a holy visitation

is branding zebras

is part of a brand new Team

Under the tyranny of domestic appliances

is the demon you’re stuck with

And now, will you believe what we told you was true?


is still rolling, and probably will be all day

will probably be apologising later to Night Garden Music

Call me Ishmael

doesn’t want to go to Amity Gardens

Mean. But accurate

has won 70-68 in the fifth

doesn’t think his heart can stand another 45 minutes like that

Mow the job of work must begin

has been caught in a metaphor

Escape is never truly possible if you’re aware of the risks

will be doubling up at Wimbledon later

Hup Holland

is watching the sunrise in Amsterdam. No, I haven’t been to bed

Has been riding a beerbike

has survived

is the man who’s stealing your sunshine

dreams of unbidden things

E-Bow the Status Update

is waiting with a gun and a pack of sandwiches


is the person most likely to coe (sic) top of the class

is a parody of himself

has been writing obituaries of fat men

and then we decided to wait, until we could wait no more

would be delighted if you could join him at The Lamb on Lamb’s Conduit Street tonight for some poetry from himself and the other delightful and talented members of the Artillery Arms Group

Thanks to Jacqueline Smith Kirsti Green and Alice Park for being kumquat’d last night
is blowing blasts of static

is the fourth man, once removed

is caught in a loop of his own knitting

Sentimentality is bindweed for the soft of heart

If I had known it was never going to end, I would not have started it there

Has spent most of the day with ‘Moby Dick’ (not a euphemism)

And one day I shall be cool again

Home soon

Bite me, bite me, bite me

is drowning in a sea of words, waving for a lifebelt of meaning

has survived with just one large bruise

now has an alien tattoo

Hey you

If I become me, will I even notice?

is live and direct from the scene

I know Little Italy, sir, and le me tell you: Strawberry Moon is no Little Italy

Plunder? Or Pillage? The decision is yours

is part of the truth

Hail well, kismet fellow

is po-mo a go go

is the beaten generation

is tilted

Same day. Next day. Every day.

would that it were

Stove a page of longing in his notebook today

Wistful is as wistful does

Bonjour heures supplémentaires

dreams of ribbons, on ribbons

is on sidereal time

is all cliff faces and waterfalls

November came in August

was thwarted in having breakfast with Kirsty Wear this morning. His penance will be to think about eggs benedict all day

is writing words to woo the art school girls

Devilry, thy time is now

Cardinal sins, or ordinal ones?

is lost on gin lane

Some chap called Oscar Plummer is getting married later…

In memoriam; Treason Boy Cat Esq, who died this morning

is making come hither eyes at Fate

The smart person accepts; the idiot insists

is yours &c

Welcome to the world Hannah Elizabeth Cornish and congrats to Andrew Cornish and Jo

has been transferred to harbour patrol

will always be found in the kitchen at parties

is in the best possible taste


Commercial: Artcrank London

For the bike people amongst you, Artcrank looks like a must see. Additional incentive provided by the fact that my super talented colleague Pete has some work showing. Go early, go often etc. Opens Friday.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Commercial: North Lambeth Writers Project

Word to all you scribblers in the Kennington, Oval, Vauxhall, Vassall, Stockwell, Waterloo areas, plus 'some sections of South Bank': The North Lambeth Writers Project is looking for you.

Essays, stories, poems &c, from, about, inspired the hood that we call home. I bumped into Alex, the major domo behind it, at the Vauxhall Expo last weekend, and he let it slip that the submissions date might be pushed back if you chose to put something in.

Get cracking then, chaps and chappesses.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Paras to ponder

Here lies the present paradox: work has totally triumphed over all other ways of existing, as the same time as workers have become superfluous. Gains in productivity, outsourcing, mechanization, automated and digital production have so progressed that they have almost reduced to zero the quantity of living labor (sic) necessary in the manufacture of any product. We are living the paradox of a society if workers without work, where entertainment, consumption and leisure only underscore the lack from which they are supposed to distract.

From 'The Coming Insurrection' by something calling itself The Invisible Committee; it's caused a storm, and indeed some arrests in French, and now quoted disapprovingly by Glenn Beck. It is, as you might expect, traditionally Gallic in it's theoretical approach, but unlike many other provocations of its type, well-written, and not possessed of that many sentences with two subordinate clauses.


Friday, September 10, 2010

Commercial: Poetry from Art at Tate Modern

So, I've managed to get myself smuggled into another pamphlet, this time 'Poetry from Art at Tate Modern', edited by Pascale Petit who also runs the poetry classes at the museum, and is a brilliant poet herself.

And we're having a launch reading: 18.45 – 21.00 on Saturday 25 September 2010 in the East Room on Level 7 of Tate Modern. It's free entry and there will be wine.

Do come etc etc. I'll try not to be nervous.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Beware Greeks accepting gifts

Or, at least monks playing at being investment companies, as Michael Lewis has discovered in this month's Vanity Fair. Best quote is right at the end, from Isocrates:

“Democracy destroys itself because it abuses its right to freedom and equality. Because it teaches its citizens to consider audacity as a right, lawlessness as a freedom, abrasive speech as equality, and anarchy as progress.”

(Hat tip: The Browser)


Commercial: The 26 Annual Speech

It's that time again. And this year, we have an absolute treat in store. Booker-shortlisted author Howard Jacobson will be talking about 'the writer's art'. That's gotta be worth a punt, right?

Thursday, October 21, 2010 from 6:00 PM, at the British Library. Hurry hurry etc etc, tickets going fast.


Monday, September 06, 2010

In memoriam

Treason Boy Cat Esq, 1996-2010, who died this morning.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Commercial: Two things you really should read

1. Nick calls time on creative participation.

2. Tom's v handy cut out and keep guide to tone of voice.


Commercial: Fine Cell Work

As we move towards the results of the spending review being announced, one thing that's pretty certain is that rehabilitating prisoners will fall down the political agenda, at exactly the moment that it should go up - not least because thinking about these issues will become more acute as the number of jails and prisoners starts to fall, due to costs.

So I'd like to draw your attention to the fine work being done by, ahem, Fine Cell Work. As it says:

Fine Cell Work is a social enterprise that teaches needlework to prison inmates and sells their products. The prisoners do the work when they are locked in their cells, and the earnings give them hope, skills and independence.

Our mission is to rehabilitate prisoners by giving them the opportunity to earn and save money and the chance to reflect on and rebuild their lives through craft and achievement. Prisoners do Fine Cell Work for an average of 3 years: the benefits can therefore be profound.

This wasn't a simple sell, by any stretch. Fine Cell Work's founder, Lady Anne Tree, who died last month, struggled for three decades to get the idea approved by the Home Office.

Time has shown that her perseverance was worth it. This is not just ham-fisted darning going on; this is proper, full-on artistic expression; similar to the way in which prisoners who learn to read and write while inside discover a new side of themselves, so sewing and needlework appears to provide both a form of relief and a way forward.

The results, in terms of both rehabilitation and creative output, can be spectacular. If you happened to see the Quilts exhibition at the V&A recently, you'll know about the work done by prisoners at HMP Wandsworth, which was at once both meditative and passionate, and as persuasive an argument for the work of the charity.

It has a shop too, so I'd humbly suggest getting someone's Christmas present from there. It'll make a hell of a lot of difference to lots of people.