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, June 30, 2006

Round up

Still, a bit discombobulated since getting back from Singapore, so thoughts on that will have to wait until next week. Until then:

Another recommendation from the 26 newsletter for June is here.

Lorelei's new book is this.

And latest Common Ground news is here; or indeed below:


Uncommonly good news

'Common Ground - Around Britain In Thirty Writers' is the latest collaborative writing project from 26, and will be published in August. Contributors include novellists Niall Griffiths, Ali Smith and Elise Valmorbida. Here's the idea behind it...

Writers define places, places inspire writers. What would Dorset be without Thomas Hardy? Imagine the Scottish Highlands without Robert Louis Stevenson. And what was the effect of Hackney on Pinter, Kent on Dickens, or Laugharne on Dylan Thomas? Which writer captures the spirit of your area? How have the local landscape, people and stories influenced them? And what effect has this had on you?

We asked 30 of Britain's liveliest writers to consider those questions and write about the common ground they share with another writer. This book brings together their extraordinary responses, and provides a unique, informative and thoroughly entertaining tour of literary Britain.

Featuring pieces on... Paul Abbott Burnley. Rev. W Awdry Wiltshire. Julian Barnes Middlesex. Hilaire Belloc Sussex. John Burnside Fife. Mary Butts Dorset. Charles Dickens Kent. TS Eliot City of London. Jasper Fforde Swindon. Alan Garner Cheshire. Patrick Hamilton Earl’s Court. Thomas Hardy Dorset. David Lodge Birmingham. FW Lister Middlesbrough. Richard Long At large. George Mackay Brown Orkney. Hugh Miller Cromarty. John Milton Buckinghamshire. Stuart Murdoch Glasgow. Harold Pinter Hackney. Will Self M40. William Shakespeare Stratford. Giles Smith Colchester. Robert Louis Stevenson Scottish Highlands. Dylan Thomas Laugharne. Edward Thomas Cotswolds. Major H.W. 'Bill' Tilman Cornwall. Van Morrison Belfast. Keith Waterhouse Yorkshire. Virginia Woolf Sussex.

Whitbread prize-winner Ali Smith, as well as 26 stalwarts Stuart Delves, Jamie Jauncey and John Simmons will be taking the mike at the Edinburgh Book Festival, talking about their contributions and to 'Common Ground' on 20 August. If you're up that way, why not pop in to support the cause?

There’s also a special launch of the book in London on the evening of 31 August at the Globe Theatre, all members of 26 are welcome, so please make a note of the date in your diary. We’ll be sending out more details nearer the time and announcing our next book project, which has a distinctly Shakespearean flavour.

Friday, June 23, 2006

How to destroy MySpace

A wonderfully written account of how one person's quest for popularity almost brought the whole system down around his ears. In particular relish this line:

Yeah, that will get me chicks. Girls want guys who have computer hacking skills.

The only worry is, of course, that record labels will find a way to modify the worm, so that spurious bands get spurious amounts of friends.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A call, and a farewell, to arms

The farewell first: Top of the Pops, at least in its TV incarnation, will take its leave of us this summer, not entirely unexpectedly. It never adjusted to a world where the UK singles chart mattered less, and fluctuated with giddy rapidity; it never recovered from being shifted from Thursday night to Friday night, and up against the formidable competition of Coronation Street. But the brand should live on. One presumes the magazine will continue to exist, and the format (and indeed the name) has been exported to TV markets around the world. And I suspect it will have a life/rebirth in the web 2.0/user-generated content world that Auntie is moving into. A MyTOTP channel in the interactive media player? It's not beyond the bounds of either credibility or possibility.

And the call: Mark Hurst of Good Experience is one of the leading advocates of why focusing on customers, and the experience that they have with an organisation or a brand, will lead to benefits both to the customer and the organisation. This week he has posted an insightful piece about the top-down nature of branding projects, and as to why the future is more of an organic, bottom-up one.

It was a piece that chimed with a lot of my thoughts: I'm really interested as in whether it is possible to construct a brand (brand model/promise) in an 'open source' way, thereby circumventing the traditional agency model. It has also sparked a lot of interesting comments and feedback, especially from Andreas Forsland of Philips. Mine two-pennorth reproduced below. Apologies for the grammatical infelicity: listening to England subside in Germany does that to one's typing...


Mark's passionate call to arms recalled my own reasons for moving downstream from corporate branding a year ago.

Developing a promise, and aligning the organisation and then the market with it are important (and on the projects I worked on we rarely tried to put the promise into the market in the language that it had been written in for internal consumption - we wanted to try and 'trigger the thought' amongst people instead.)

But our primary client was the executive suite, and often in balancing their agendas, we lost sight of the consumer.

I found that the more exciting part of the process was taking a promise, and trying to interpret it: what does 'beyond petroleum' mean in terms of the way that a client behaves, the products offered, the way services are organised. It's not a discipline that traditional brand agencies, let alone ad agencies, are well placed to think about and deliver.

In a way that executive was right: you do have to take the promise and deliver it consistently through all channels. But Mark is right too: the definition of what are considered as 'channels' have to be widened.

It's not just about delivering the promise through communication touchpoints - it's about delivering it through all touchpoints.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The weight of my world


pink top: 35g
oh-so-cool red gingham sun visor: 50g
red bra: 60g
little pink dress: 70g
pink flip flops: 150g
black sandals: 240g
black linen dress: 260g
fruit & nut: 305g
whole equation: 345g

aka putting off mending my linen trews (225g)


grey hairs (at least three)
bloodshot eyes (two, right more so than left)
love handles (two, or one, depending on how you look at these things; about ten extra pounds at least)
worries (plenty, but reduced after a lovely weekend together)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Nanofiction: One track

The girl emailed to say that we should meet. I replied and said I'd be in London for a week, and staying at [hotel]. She said we would fuck. I said it would be better if we fucked, mouthfucked, talkfucked, ideafucked. But not soulfucked. She agreed.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Capsule: on the Tate Modern rehangs

To Bankside and a fairly good depth dive into the Idea and Object and States of Flux areas, prompted the following thoughts:

1. Degas wouldn't be able to produce the Little Dancer Aged 14 now. He'd be labelled a perve. Which raises a question: what art is being lost by the limits of behaviour that contemporary society now decree?

2. Video art is still problematic to watch and engage with in a gallery context. For one the ergonomics of watching do not lend themselves to sustained periods of sitting or standing still, especially when you don't know what you are getting or for how long you might be needed. Differing qualities of film stock, colour saturation, even the number of screens varying, means that you don't really have a fixed point of reference, which is unsettling. Added to that the impulse to get round and see much more during your trip, and it's no wonder that people (I would wager) spend no longer than an average of 5 minutes watching an average piece of film or video. I scribbled down on the map that someone needs to invent a 'ginema', a place where video art can be watched, in levels of comfort and purpose similar to that of a cinema. Or how else is anyone else meant to get this 'ism'?

That belief did not change despite watching 'Driftwood', an excellent piece by Oliver Payne and Nick Relph, which drew a lot on Iain Sinclair as inspiration for its satrical perambulation around (un)expected London.

3. The panjandurums at Tate have now decided that we as punters are now worthy of getting a chronology of modern art, if not a collection arranged in that way. The timeline is now available on the landings of the third and fifth floors. Previously unheard of or unexpected isms and movements in the history of modern art include:

Vienna secession
Les Nabis
The Photo-secession
New Objectivity
Group f/64 (and why has no one founded a Group Ixus yet?)
Spatialism (which appears to be a movement of one artist, Lucio Fontana)
Hard Edge Painting
Neo-Concrete Group
Vienna Actionism
Düsseldorf School of Photography.

The isms appear to stop in about 1985, with neo-expressionism being the last one.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Snapshot: Ideas given

Gave me an idea
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333.
To the Tea Building last night, (and who knew that luminaries including Albion and Tomato are housed in there?), where there was a one night stand by LCC students called Gave Me An Idea (one of my co-conspirators on From Here To Here, Emma, was involved).

The conceit is delicious: a short period of time to generate work, and then you're invited to take away what you like, donating an amount that you see fit to charity, in last night's case the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Apart from the obvious benefits of scalability, replication and income generation that such an event highlights, what was notable is the Web 2.0/user-generated content feel of the work: grabbed, roughened, found, insightful. Courier is clearly making a comeback as well.

There should be an online version of the exhibition up soon. Go see, and donate generously.

Tour: Stamford, Lincs (2)

Fiction: Polka Dot

Beware the truth that is lucid dreaming.

I saw us on the quad, sometime in June, four years from now. There was no marquee, but instead chairs placed in a careful semi-circle in front of us. You were in red at first: strappy, empire line. But I think that changed to polka dot at some point. You said the vows that we had written with firmness and clarity. I tried to think of whether I'd changed your mind, to do something you said you'd never do. Persuaded you. But your smile and the unwavering brightness in your eyes said that you'd arrived at this decision yourself; that love had persuaded you.

We had a first dance of course, but the lucidity didn't stretch to to confirming whether it was 'Nothing Else Matters' or 'Distant Sun'. Maybe it was 'Into My Arms' instead.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Tour: Stamford, Lincs (1)

Nadya and Ellis' wedding 045
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333.
East Coast Mainline

Here is a church, golden and locked
Forgotten in a forest of other spires

Here is a station, quiet and narrow
Until one, no movement today

Here is a train, cool and sleek
Bearing my regrets, my freight of hasty words

Here is a farm, green and rippling
And fields over, fallow hands and idle shears

Here is a stadium, round and red
Glass and pride fit to burst

Here is a city, eternal and home
Where I lay with you

Friday, June 09, 2006

Nanofiction: Infra City

When you told me about dancing to Crazy in Love, I thought for some reason about watching 1 Thing in Stockholm, that summery Friday morning, on the most comfortable hotel bed I've ever slept in. And I thought about the bing bong and the click clack of heels. And I thought about the skirt that you were wearing that night in December. And I think about whether, when we're next at a gig, you'll lean your body into me, and I'll wrap my arms around your waist, and we'll carry on where we left off that August night a year ago. And I thought of where we would go. To that bed in the Infra City, where the white of your skin would get lost on the white of the sheets.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Reportage: Tired eyes on lovers

Dateline: Friday 2 June, between Euston (Bank branch) and King's Cross St Pancras [Northern line], about 07.47

I had closed my eyes, the weariness of the previous day/s not fully accounted for by a depth charge of sleep. The Rapture's 'House of Jealous Lovers' came on, and my eyes started to pulse, a throb in time straining against shut eyelids. The chop chop chop of the trebly guitar started, and I could see shafts neon, green, pink, orange and blue. Rectangular and evanescent, they disappeared if I stared against the dark too long to try and see them.

When the trebly guitar started to pick out the single notes, all up and down within its unchallenging parameters, the chunks turned to a single string, uncoiling into a nameless distance on the right.

I opened my eyes to see a woman getting up from the seat opposite me. She was replaced directly by another woman. This new woman turned her head imperceptibly to her right. Following her eyeline, my eyeline met the sight of a bald (shaved) man leaning against the internal carriage door. He had in his hand a sheaf of handwritten papers. He shook his head slightly. But there was a small, secret smile on his lips. And then he winked at the woman, quickly, once, with his left eye.

I closed my eyes again.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Snapshot: Modernism

On an almost parodically old-skool Oakshott conservatism post by Peter Franklin at CiF, I contributed a brief review of Modernism, currently on at the V&A. The thread descended quickly into an ugly buildings sub-plot, but there we go.


I suspect Peter hasn't yet been to the modernism retrospective that's currently on at the V&A museum in London (btw, go if you get the chance - it's usefully enlightening).

While Peter couches most of his critique in aesthetic terms ("but that the buildings seem to hate one other, fighting it out on a jagged, chaotic skyline.") that it is to pre-suppose that the movement was just strictly concerned with appearances.

Far from it. There are roots in Russian constructivism, and wider theories of 'utopia': out of the general tumult of the early 20th century, and the concern as to how to provide a better life for all, a group of designers turned their attention as to how the made/designed world could be approached in a similar way.

Infuse with that the seductions/attractions of the Fordist/machine age, and you start to get a hint about where the loss of scale in modernism started to come in. But for many modernist designers and architects, the very object was to bring the disicipline of manufacturing to home-building: Le Corbusier's quote about the home as a machine for living - efficiency, labour saving and elegance were all thought of as important. Practically, this meant looking at rooms, and what was performed in them, and then redesigning the room and appliances so as less effort could be expended to get done what needed to be done. The 'Frankfurt Kitchen' was the best example of this.

Yes, at some point the concern that Bauhaus had with human, incidental details in objects did get lost, and modernism got reduced to an aesthetic style caricaturing Mies van der Rohe's 'less is more': seemingly dominated by glass, steel and straight lines. But to suppose that it doesn't work at the larger, citywide level is yes, to deny Manhattan, Chicago, Brasilla: their impact, their grandeur, their beauty.

The real question is: why, despite Britain proving safe havens and commissions for a number of key figures from Bauhaus and modernism in the 1920s and 1930s (the Nazis weren't too keen, as the theoretical underpinnings and the Jewish and communist backgrounds of a number of key modernist thinkers didn't fit into their revival of Germanic volk culture), did we never take to it in the same way? It was only until Conran's work in the 1960s did modernist currents find their way into a wider, mass market.

Monday, June 05, 2006

The magic of the rolling ball: pre Copa Mondiale

1. This is why England will never win; not when Brazillians are thinking, talking and playing like the Dutch:

Then he [Ronaldinho] explains: 'When I train, one of the things I concentrate on is creating a mental picture of how best to deliver that abll to a team-mate, preferably leaving him alone in front of the rival goalkeeper. So what I do, always before a game, always, every night and every day, is try and think up things, imagine plays, which no one else will have thought of, and to do so bearing in mind the particular strengths of each team-mate to whom I am passing the ball...

That is my job. That is what I do.

I imagine the game.

John Carlin, 'The Boy Done Godd', Observer Sports Monthly, June 2006; and also at the New York Times (registration required).

2. Review of John and Matt Simmons' excellent new book about Arsenal, 'Winning Together' here, or indeed, below:

John and Matt Simmons have crafted a great tribute to a club that they clearly love. But it is in no way inaccessible to those who aren't Arsenal fans. There is much here that will be useful to those who work with brands: reminders of the power of stories, behaviour and people in building relationships. And there are some great insights into the business strategies that football clubs must adopt if they are to move to a more secure and stable future. The book is lovingly designed as well: some of the photos burst with vitality, and the one of Frank McLintock jumping over chairs is worth the price of admission alone.

I wish I wasn't so confused

Last night I witnessed *new* *sensation* Sandi Thom debut at No 1 on Top Of The Pops with her lament 'I wish I was a punk rocker (with flowers in my hair)'.

I know, I know, it's taking chocolate from the proverbial nursery. But still, shall we just point out the inherent incompatibility of that title (which doubles as the first line), because as any fule kno punks of both the US and UK variety were rebelling against the stasis and general selling out by the hippie generation of post 1967. And so, Sandi, punks wouldn't have wouldn't worn flowers.

Oh, and for someone who has come to fame and prominence and success via MySpace/webcasting/downloading, singing:

"And the media couldn't buy your soul
And computers were still scary and we didn'’t know everything"

well, it sticks in the craw _just a little bit_. Especially the spin that she was a struggling artist. Who had both a manager, and a PR agency at the time of her webcasts, in lieu of gigs round the country. Deconstruction of said phenomenon here.

I like my pop music to be artless and honest about its lies and its artlessness. Hear hear for artifice, and non-hypocritical pop pap.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Late night at Lab

Late night at Lab
Originally uploaded by SgtRock333.
On the town with M and S and K. Following a warm up session at Balans (which in turned followed a pre-match picnic in Kensington Gardens with A and S and S and C plus assorted others, and M who came afore the theatre), we decamped a couple of doors down the road, to Lab, which has been reliably described as one of the best cocktail bars in London. The Lemongrass Collins readily proved that fact.

K at one point was clearly getting bored, and grabbing a pen from S, decided to start napkin conversations. Which became napkin poetry. The choicest example of was this:

"Love is a sensation
Caused by temptation
A guy sticks his location
in a girl's destination
to increase the population
for the next generation!


Brilliance, at once tempered by a disregarding of one's talent. Who'd have thought you got that on a boozy Saturday night?