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, May 26, 2006


1. Partial success in the great 61 brand quick of last night (that's 26 +/vs 35, hence the number... oddly there were 63 questions though.) The Crown and Anchor team came second by one point, a heroic second-half turnaround. Our reward was a bag of goodies from those nice peeps at Diageo. Reverting to type, I opted for the Bailey's. Creds to Sarah and her penmanship.

2. Sub editor's fear of the semi-colon: Headline from New Scientists's email news flash service:
Artificial penile tissue allows rabbits to mate normally.

I had to lie down for a bit after I read that particular title.

3. I've (against my better judgement, and perhaps inclination) been drawn in to the whole Big Blogger stuff that is happening at CiF. Particularly there's been an exchange with Liam Bailey of War Pages. For the record, my latest - and hopefully final - word is reproduced below. My response to Liam's challenge is here. He has responded. Frankly, I lack the energy. Good luck, Liam.


Oh Liam, I could argue and argue and argue and argue and argue with you all day, but I might collapse into a never-ending spiral of despair at the futility of it all...

For the record:

"I'll wager you're at least middle aged, and still writing comments on the Guardian CIF so you're obviously a writer that never made it."

I'm 28, and I've been published. I'm being published again later this year. I write as a hobby, but my day job is something corporate, and it keeps me in clover. Am I spiritually middle aged? Almost indisputably.

I nominated Mr PB yes: but that doesn't make me a 'supporter' of him. As I've said before, I hold no brief for any candidate. (And it's hardly as if those of us who have nominated him are 'cronies' or in cahoots over email, or indeed here, thinking of ways to prevent you from entering and winning this competition. [I don't think we've ever *conversed* directly, have we PB?].) I nominated him because, out of the cacophany of voices here, he's the one that stands out the most. I like reading him. I disagree with him sometimes (actually, often), and violently. I think winning will denude him of a lot of his impact. But for me he best meets Georgina's criteria. And I feel no apology for stating that.

Where I do apologise is for not seeing your words of thanks at my (and I do admit it) patronising attempt to correct your grammar. And I am not deliberately, or intentionally, picking on you. But as you are putting your head above the parapet with such insistency it surely should not be surprising that people might take note of what you are saying, and then try to dig a little deeper.

"Everything I send to editors is checked thoroughly and mistake free. I have a note in my daybook to go through all my blog postings and check for mistakes but I just never get time"

Quite. And as I've said before, it's fab that you are young, restless, determined and ambitious, and that other people have spotted and are promoting your talent. But I really fail to understand why you don't take your writing for this forum as seriously as your writing for others. Why isn't what you put in front of us as worthy of being 'checked thoroughly and mistake free'? And to ask me as a reader to excuse you and your mistakes on the basis of a lack of time is not good enough. I might: but I can assure that other readers won't. And will this continue to be the case if you do win?

If you get a chance have a read of what Simon Jenkins has written today:,,1783336,00.html and in particular note this para:

'Journalists have one thing in common with historians, a residual obligation to truth. It may seem hard to credit, but if a serious journalist gets a fact wrong it hurts. (Last week I regrettably confused Maundy Gregory with Horatio Bottomley.) Facts should be taskmasters. They must be sought out and checked, not just made up. An entire profession is supposedly devoted to gathering and assessing them. As Tom Stoppard joked, "Comment is free but facts are on expenses."'

There is no reason why readers and particpants at CiF don't deserve the same committment to facts, correctness and good writing as that you give to your other readers, and that we get from other columnists and posters here. To say or imply we don't demeans us as an audience.

Did anyone ask me or others to pick you up on your grammar? No. But here's why it's important (and apologies if I do sound like a Lynne Truss-style fogey at this point): writing well, correctly and clearly means that people understand you, without ambiguity, without confusion. It means that they get what you're trying to say. And what for a writer is more important than that?

Overall, your casual disregard of those fundamental truths of the purpose of writing and communicating makes me worried for your future success as a writer, a success which your energy clearly deserves.

But (and God knows why I'm wasting my day off in this way), to show I'm a good sport, and I don't mean you any harm or ill will, I'll take you up on your challenge at War Pages. No doubt you'll 'win'. But I hope I've shown you that it's not about winning and besting others at CiF - it's about giving us all illumination and insight. And dare one say it, doing so with grace as well.


Blogger Liam Bailey said...

I don't know why you've posted this but I answered every argument you gave, and that link to simon Jenkins is a new thing, meaning it wasn't in your comment on CiF. I'll tell you why I don't pay as much attention to detail for CiF because it isn't about my writing, it is about holding up a debate on other peoples writing. I feel that any link of mine you clicked, you did so with the intention of finding fault. Then when you had done that you set about making my mistake (however small) more important than my work.

7:44 pm  
Blogger Liam Bailey said...

And yes you did take me up on my challenge, but missed the point, which was to write a better article based on the same two articles I had linked to my piece. And as i was the last person to comment in our debate about my article I decalre myself the winner. Anyone who wants to check it out it's at:

7:51 pm  
Blogger Liam Bailey said...

Hi Betarish, this is a semi apology. I don't know if you've ever had a wordpress blog, but I'v e ben trying to make changes to my site, and getting too impatient on my slow computer, I was trying to make changes before the page fully loaded up. I wasn't checking if the changes had been made correctly either. When I went through all my blogs as I told you I intended to, I was in deep despair at the number of people who had viewed my site full of mistakes. I have been promoting myself for all the wrong reasons and must start again. Thank you for drawing my attention to this, although I do still feel there was an element of trying to make me look bad on CiF, be it for your own chances or MPB's. This is it though no hard feelings, I appreciaste the facvt it was your crtiticism that finally made me carry out the task of checking my site.

6:37 am  

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