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

Monday, February 28, 2011

A prediction that should be banned

Forgive, for I am about to don a tin hat, and pen a criticism of the sainted Warren Buffet, normally a model of clear, if folksy, business communication. But, really, why give people this hostage to fortune, in the most recent letter to his shareholders:

Now, as in 1776, 1861, 1932 and 1941, America’s best days lie ahead.

My concern is not that it might be true, or, indeed false, now. It is rather that, one day, it will definitely be false. I suspect in years to come, we will sift many attempts at homespun boosterism like this, and wonder, why were so many willing to be called out on such hubris?


Friday, February 25, 2011

On the language of repression

I'm currently reading Rysczard Kapuscinski's Shah of Shahs, which as an elliptical account of the fall of Mohammad Rezā Pahlavi, has some eerie parallels with what's going on in Libya at the moment.

I recommend you read it too, not least because it has some gruesome detail on how the Shah's secret police, the Savak, operated. And one of their tools was close attention to language:

Experience had taught [people] to avoid uttering such terms as oppressiveness, darkness, burden, abyss, collapse, quagmire, putrefaction, cage, bars, chain, gag, truncheon, boot, claptrap, screw, pocket, paw, madness, and expressions like lie down, lie flat, spreadeagle, fall on your face, wither away, gotten flabby, go blind, go deaf, wallow in it, something's out of kilter, something's wrong, all screwed up, something's got to give - because all of them, these nouns, verbs, adjectives, and pronouns, could hide allusions to the Shah's regime, and thus formed a connotative minefield where you could get blown to bits with one slip of the tongue.

Could you live in a world like that?


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Buck vs Nagra

No, no, not an actual fight, lest you get the idea that the esteemed Daljit is having some sort of fisticuffs with the equally esteemed Peter of R.E.M.

But Daljit said something at the Faber Academy last night which blew my mind: that he can have a poem 'open' - that is, playing with it, editing it, reshaping, re-writing - for up to three years. He doesn't want to lock it down until the last possible moment.

And I think why that both resonated and surprised me is the influence of Peter on my as, effectively my first creative role model when growing up, and pretending that I really could play rhythm guitar.

Peter's expressed his creative philosophy in many places over the years, and so this recent interview with Pitchfork is as good as an exemplar of it as any:

But still, I want to do it [the record] really quickly and immediately and not do a huge amount of overdubs. The last record, of the 11 songs, probably nine of them had virtually no overdubs. They were all complete live takes with maybe one extra guitar added at the chorus. And I liked that; it attracted me to just go in and play it like that.

Now, I know that's slightly confusing the recording of the song and album with the writing of it, but still, I think the two approaches are clear enough: quickly and frequently vs slowly and by accretion.

And I think I was so stunned last night, because actually I'd never had my default mode of creation challenged - as Steve puts it, 'do loads, be brilliant'.

Now, I'm not sure how much I can change things up so I become slightly less Peter and slightly more Daljit in approach. But I think it's something that needs to be done.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

The Story 2011

So, I was at The Story 2011 last week, and I thought it made sense to try and use Storify to capture what I thought of the day. Thoughts, feedback most welcome.


Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Signs that there's a recession on (1)

The return of improvisational shows to the airwaves; by which I mean Showstopper, which is doing unpredictable jazz hands things on Radio 4 right now, and also Fast and Loose on BBC 2. Presumably because they're cheap, presumably because the writer's invoice is one less to pay. Further evidence? Whose Line Is It Anyway? was popular in the early 1990s, or as we also know it, the 'that wasn't very bad was it?' recession.