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, July 31, 2007

Capsule: Liberation theology

It was only by watching the hinge moment from Napoleon Dynamite last night that I realised a fundamental truth. That dancing truly is freedom, and it is freedom brought from not from rage or loneliness or a desire to show the world that you exist (although all those readings can be brought into this scene) - but instead it comes from a rock-solid confidence in your difference, from your peers, from the currents of the world around you.

And yes it truly is liberating, if you can shed your inhibitions on the floor: not for nothing was 'Canned Heat' used here:

I used to worry about the future
But then I throw my caution to the wind.
I had no reason to be care free
No no no, until I took a trip to the other side of town...
Dance, nothing left for me to do but dance,
Off these bad times I'm going through just dance

Remember that next time you feel too shy or inhibited to hit the floor: I dance therefore I am.


Monday, July 30, 2007

Commercial: Most viral

Sourced from Thursday's Times, GoViral have selected the top ten viral ad campaigns (most 'viral' ads?). To become successfully infectious, ads need to be 'edgy, surprising, original, erotic and emotional – and tap into popular culture'. No humour? Anyway, no small order, all that.

The ten are:

1. Nike - Ronaldinho R10
2. Agent Provocateur - Kylie riding the bucking bronco
3. John West - Bear vs fisherman
4. QuikSilver - Dynamite Surfing
5. Carlton Draught - Big Ad
6. Trojan Condoms - Trojan Games
7. Dove - Evolution
8. Berlitz - What are you zinking about?
9. Diet Coke - Mentos (does this actually count as an 'ad' or a campaign'?)
10. Mark Ecko - Still Free.

Not sure if the methodology is correct - there's an air of contrivance about the list overall and the selections - but an interesting stab neverthless.

What? Show one of these fine ads? Go on then. Which one shall I choose?

...oh, why not?


Friday, July 27, 2007

Capsule: High Maintenance & The Kazoo Funk Orchestra

Dublin Castle, London; 25 July 2007

The madness starts beforehand, when a burly, bearded Scots bloke starts giving out fluorescent kazoos to a knot of damp, shivering smokers outside the venue. Inside it gets no less strange. A man dressed in medical scrubs rhetorically asks from the stage, “Do you think we fucked that pop-punk song?” before informing us that the next song is called ‘Muffdiver’. The song features the word ‘shagpipe’. It is about exactly what you think it is.

Welcome then, to the slightly deranged world of the Kazoo Funk Orchestra (henceforth KFO). A nine-strong Scots collective – featuring the talents of, inter alia, Big Beard, Little Beard, Krash Slaughta and Jim N Tonic – at first glance KFO seem to share much of the current vogue for multi-headed, multi-instrumental hydrabands, a Caledonian Go Team, or a Really Fucked Social Scene.

Listen closely though, and it’s clear that their art school poses have longer antecedents: the angularity and precisely irregular timekeeping of Talking Heads; the irreverence towards their source material as practiced by Gomez; the blokey shoutiness of Goldie Lookin’ Chain. The taking of a story of that evening’s London Lite and turning it into an impromptu song shows that they’ve drunk deep at the well of the Bonzo Dog Band too. And the glitter-filled balloons strewn across the floor was a lovely touch from this bunch of slightly freaky charmers.

They end with ‘Disco Disco Disco Theque’, which – of course – sounds nothing like a disco, but instead is a woozy rampage through a carnival. On this evidence, KFO sound like the perfect orchestra for your own woozy rampages.

High Maintenance, by comparison, are a much more traditional affair: guitars, bass, drums, rock and roll and no comedy percussion. But my, what rock and roll. The High (the Maintenance?) specialise in a type of power pop – think The Posies, Gigolo Aunts – that these isles have historically been pretty poor at producing. That, thankfully, looks set to change.

Cleverly, they have two pieces of eye candy as a visual counterpoint. Frontman Tim O’Connor, in his glacial intensity, is eerily reminiscent of Guy Chadwick of the House of Love. To his left, bassist Mike Ward is all sweat and sex. Well, that at least seemed to be the reaction of the ladies in front of me.

It’s not just prettiness though. HM know their way round the canon. Opener ‘We’re All Policemen Now’ has enough sweetness underlying its paranoia to remind you of a happier Screaming Trees, while ‘Souvenir’ shows that they have chops, bringing to the fore James Houston and Tim’s sterling twin guitar attack. And in Mike and drummer Dave Houston, HM have a rhythm section of relentless power. Indeed Dave appears to defy physics, generating an unfeasibly huge sound from just a kick drum, snare and one tom tom.

They leave to a fierce, and fiercely-controlled, blow out, and leave us wanting more. High Maintenance are clearly going to be worth the hassle.


26 recommendations for July

can be found here. Enjoy.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Editorial: Fatal feline

This is Oscar. Oscar knows when people are going to die. Which is in of itself amazing.

What's even more amazing is the headline Reuters used for their story about him:

Nursing home cat can sense death

I'll bet there was a bit of cheering when the back bench came up with that.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Commercial: the Facebook backlash backlash starts here

Naturally it had to happen. So of the knocking pieces on FB, take your pick from the wryly cynical about the privacy aspects; the theoretically bonkers (with added crazy notions such as the idea that you could become famous through FB); and the sullen, codgery one-upmanship - ie 'I write to/call my/see/drink with my friends' etc etc.

But remember: when someone tells you that they don't do 'social networking' because they have a real life and real friends, what they're actually saying is, "I'm a better person than you. Because I value a supposed notion of 'quality' in my relationships. Oh, and I have the time to use more languorous forms of communication. Which must inevitably mean that I'm richer than you too."

For a more optimistic take on the power of social networking and Facebook, see Rory Sutherland's post, which posits a really useful category of communications: "semi-addressable".


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Listorama: Future TV glossary

Taken from The Observer's Future of TV special a few weeks ago. Most of these are self-explanatory; few, we expect, will pass into popular usage.

Appointment television
Cot potato
Glurge (n; Mawkishly sentimental story with facts fabricated to tug on the heart strings)
Metal Mickey
Pop dope
Shouting head
TiNo (v; from the digital recorder TiVo. Programme recorded for later viewing but never watched)
Very special episodes
Warm prop


Monday, July 23, 2007

Commercial: Advertising and high culture

Here’s a question to consider: are advertising and high culture fundamentally incompatible?

The question is asked in the light of two recent quotes about advertising’s role and purpose in the wider culture.

Firstly, Russell Davies in his Campaign column a few weeks ago talked about the fact that, despite what hysterical Cassandras might say, there is still a role for advertising in the modern world. The role – and rise of – design as a philosophy and a series of methodologies for brands to connect to consumers will not work for all brands as authenticity is not what all brands need:

what advertising does well [is that] it makes myths, it tells big stories, it adds magic. A great piece of advertising can change pop culture in the same way that a great piece of music or a great movie does, and that's a powerful commercial tool.

Secondly, John Hegarty’s comment on the eve of his recent knighthood:

People keep asking me - they asked me back in 1985 when I cast Nick Kamen in Launderette and I was 42 years old - how a man of my years can dare to interfere in pop culture," he says. "I just think there are certain things, certain qualities in people and ideas that are eternal. It's about having a culture that is perennial. It's no good just responding to a moment in time, because that moment will pass.

What strikes here is the emphasis of both on pop culture. While it is not a particularly new or revelatory point, it’s rare to see it mentioned so starkly. Advertising, in nearly all its modern forms draws upon, is inspired by, is designed to be a part of, reference, make a noise in popular culture. The world of the mainstream, the obvious, the already discovered, the mass.

None of which is to be taken as being bad and wrong. After all, pop culture is how most of us discover cultural artifacts in their widest sense, and from there politics, ideologies, philosophies. Or at least one hopes that path of cultural transmission still occurs.

But at a philosophical level, it raises some interesting questions. One is that posed above. It sounds anachronistic to use the term ‘high culture’ nowadays, but still, why is that Hegarty didn’t talk of interfering with it? Can it be as simple as the fact that that advertising as a commercial act can never be considered as having an impact or effect on or consideration of high culture? That clearly isn’t the case. After all, don’t museums – vehicles for the transmission of high cultural artifacts – use advertising as part of their tools to attract patrons?

Another question is, how does advertising respond to evidence that there is a growing desire for ‘seriousness’ within the wider culture? Andrew Keen’s recent philippic about the negative culture of web 2.0 was let down in part because of its failure to recognise that rising sales of publications such as The Economist and Prospect show that not everyone is being cheapened or coarsened by endless mindless inanity on YouTube. While not assuming this means that Radio 3 audience will reach ITV-like sizes any time soon, there is an implication that if people are demanding more intelligent content, won’t brands need to start talking in a more ‘intelligent’ way in their advertising soon? And what might that mean?

A final dimension to consider is that high culture can start to look more attractive when the overwhelming discourses of the day are so rooted in popular culture. What does that mean? Well, if one is feeling overwhelmed by the constant chatter in the age of conversation, the hype, the endless noise about whatever the latest thing is, a retreat into elitism is – paradoxically – is attractive. One could even wager that this is where the tastemakers and cool hunters will move to next.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Video round up

1. No doubt most of you have seen this, but who knew that ONN was an extant network?

2. You can now see the journey from Stanmore to Canons Park on YouTube. Magic. This is what the internet was built for. 3D trainspotting.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


Not for me, but for Uberpup and her rather nifty cover for the Bella Union ten year anniversery compilation. Get it at the download shop now. Go on go on go on...


Capsule: On romantic comedy

David Denby has provided an excellent account of the development of the Hollywood romantic comedy in this week's New Yorker. There are wise dissections of how and why the stereotypes of men and women (for it is a tremendously hetero genre, even if there are traces of campness at its edges) have evolved in the last 60 years.

But of course it is the past the appears to be more attractive than the present of (and I simplify enormously here) men who won't grow up and women who take all the responsibility. Of the screwball comedies, Denby says:

The screwball movies, at their peak, defined certain idea qualities of insouciance, a fineness of romantic temper in which men and women could be aggressive but not coarse, angry but not rancorous, silly but not shamed, melancholy but not ravaged.

Allowing for the fact that we cannot really go back to this, for many reasons including feminism and the decline of deference, it does seem that something has been lost in the intervening years - a sense, perhaps, that genders are allowed be and act in ways more complex and modified than simple stereotypes. Of screwball, Denby writes:

Equality in these comedies takes a new shape. The man is serious about his work (and no one says he shouldn't be), but he's confused about women, and his confusion has neutered him. He thinks he wants a conventional marriage with a compliant wife, but what he really wants is to be overwhelmed by the female life force.

The emphasis is added, for this, truly, is what I think that I want - or at least, always thought was what I was wanted, and was surprised that other people, other men did not appear to want it. But that idea of being overwhelmed seems unachievable now, not least because of the near impossibility of being serious, as well as the sense that to be overwhelmed suggests that one needs to be ready to be overwhelmed, and that is a significant loss of control in our status and image obsessed world.

You cannot lose your heart if you are worrying what the world thinks about you losing your head.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

Commercial: My first advert

It sort of feels like this should be delivered in a more Speak 'n' Spell-style font or tone of voice, but alas no.

So, instead, head over to Le Tour Guide for my first foray into creative online advertising. And don't forget to book your test drive.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Listorama: Unreliable words

Words I do not know (and may have transcribed incorrectly) from the first volume of Clive James' Unreliable Memoirs.



Thursday, July 05, 2007

Listorama: Facebook status updates vol 1

BetaRish has been:

bored by Book at Bedtime
scared by the size of his muffin
slightly in love with Lucy Porter
sending in the clowns, dagnabbit
a saltbreaker
ready to roar
struggling to clear his emails
off for sun, sea, sand and celebrations
not being packaged up again in a hurry
impossible Germany, unlikely Japan
really wishing he set his alarm this morning
none of the above
about to walk into a cloud
tired of making love, and of listening from Death from Above
wishing he lived a Monocle life
thinking about the future of TV. Ouch
going to look for Scott Walker albums at lunchtime
tired after staying up late to research the history of the word ‘McJobs’
mildly regretful
going to cook some rib-eye steaks
still a little stunned after seeing Rufus Wainwright don lederhosen and fishnets. Not at the same time, mind
waiting, with a gun and a pack of sandwiches
the man who is robbing you
all about the oratory of the Greek revival
just sayin’ hi to your answering bell
a black swan
suffering after losing another bout against insomnia
euphoric after seeing New Young Pony Club. Wow!
adverb adjective full stop
fed up with freakin’ insomnia, but slightly happier after a free coffee from Pret
contemplating becoming a progressive patriot, after meeting Billy Bragg on Saturday
up. Brain isn’t
more awake now
giddy with the possibilities
worse than feral
shopping in the market of senses
uhhh, um, errr, nope, nothing doing
about to watch television, the drug of the nation
making things prettier than war, death and income tax
in love with The Pipettes. Again
sure the song remains the same
wondering what he might try to popfly
taking on a donnybrook single-handed
failing to write two haikus
looking for the MacGuffin
a robot in disguise
The Hexx
out of The Woods, having gone Into them last night


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Commercial: Being Beta retail

We are pleased to announce that Being Beta now has a retail outlet. Visit, to be able to purchase your limited edition of 'Skype Songs #1', the first of what hopefully will become a more full-fledged line of creative interventions.

The Commercial Emporium is waiting for your custom.


Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Graham Smith - Eleven

Some of you will know that Graham has recorded an album, Eleven, which celebrates the Apollo moon landings. I've written a series of stories based on the tracks, which you can read on the site. CDs also available to purchase from there.